How To Motivate & Mentor Employees: Reward Is More Than Salary And Bonus

‘Work’ in general is becoming more interesting and less repetitive. We are living and working in a Digital Age and many of today’s jobs didn’t exist 10 years ago, and how we accomplish the jobs that do still exist has been rewritten. If this isn’t exciting enough, our workforce is also changing:

  • Boomers want to stay relevant and current – and also want more flexibility to enjoy their families and everything they’ve worked hard for.
  • Gen Xers want to make their mark and drive change while also keeping focused on their families and work/life balance.
  • Millennials (Generation Y) have entered the workforce and four of the many things they value are continuous learning, wanting work that’s meaningful, wanting to feel a sense of accomplishment and they want autonomy.

So in general, it’s fair to say that employees (even Boomers and Gen Xers), want to do work they feel passionate about. And this is a good thing… but requires us to learn how to manage and motivate employees (and ourselves), differently. And yet, many Boomers (still the largest group of Business Owners / Executives / Managers), have a challenge managing and motivating their employees – especially Millennials at work. For example, they give Millennials a job AND pay them… and wonder why they quickly become bored, want more and/or leave.

Times Have Changed: Motivate and mentor employees differently

Times have changed and Millennials and the emerging Gen Z are going to keep us moving forward. Millennials at work do want more… and so do most employees of all ages. The one thing to remember is that we all excel when we do work we are interested in. That’s the key.

We all excel when we do work we are interested in.

It’s like when we start a new job – we are excited – we are learning new things and meeting new people – we are creative – we ask questions – we even innovate… and then we get bored. The same happens with Millennials except their timeline is usually in months not years. So, how to do managers keep ALL employees of different generations excited? They have to motivate and mentor employees differently – and more specifically, they need to reward differently.

Here’s the thing… traditional reward and recognition systems are salary based with (hopefully), a raise and/or bonus every 12 months. Unfortunately money doesn’t motivate today’s employees for long.Reward As Money

Reward Is More Than Salary And Bonus

Traditional reward systems (salary / bonuses), assume that work is not inherently enjoyable; and 30 years ago most work wasn’t. But our work has changed in the Digital Age and we’ve all changed… we want to enjoy our work.

As Leaders, if we want a motivated workforce who produce at a high-level, more and more money is not an effective strategy (and is the most expensive approach). There are many intrinsic motivators that are rarely used that are proven to increase creativity, productivity and loyalty… and have little/low-cost, like C.A.R.P. motivators:

  • C – Competence / Mastery… learning new things – gaining experience and/or using an expertise.
  • A – Autonomy / Choice… like what to work on, when and how
  • R – Relevance / Purpose… why the work is meaningful – important
  • P – Progress… what they are doing is adding to the greater good (the what to the why answer)

Studies have proven that external rewards like traditional salary / bonuses, can have negative impact on problem solving and creativity (as two examples). Why? Because employees soon learn to expect the ‘reward’ and often become unmotivated if/when they don’t receive the ‘reward’ when they expect it.

Alternatively, employees who feel passionate about their work and who feel supported by the low/no-cost C.A.R.P. motivation and reward systems will almost always become creative, higher-than-average performers. In addition, when employees feel proud and excited about their accomplishments they demonstrate greater organizational loyalty and think twice before leaving. And, feeling proud and excited happens all the time – not once every 12 months.

Want Proof? Here’s An Example – Daniel H. Pink writes in his book ‘Drive’

“In a 2009 study MIT study led by MIT Sloan School of Management’s Pierre Azoulay and his colleagues compared two different ways to incentivize creativity in the sciences. They examined scientists who received grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), which emphasis external controls such as “short review cycles, pre-defined deliverables, and renewal policies unforgiving of failure.” Then they looked at scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), whose funding process “tolerates early failure, rewards long-term success and gives its appointees great freedom to experiment.” The result? HHMI investigators produced high-impact papers at a much higher rate than their similarly accomplished NIH counterparts.” Daniel H. Pink


In this busy, fast-paced work environment it’s important employers have confidence in their employees talent and give them enough autonomy to do their work and be proud of what they accomplish. Watching every move – double-checking every task is an ‘old-school’ way to motivate and mentor employees and will only slow down progress / productivity and make talented employees feel less professional and personal influence.

In addition, traditional motivation and mentoring systems will cost more both in money (salaries / bonuses), as well as the cost to replace unmotivated employees who quit after only a few months – or years.

Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating… and training.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

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