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How to Effectively Reward People for Participating in an Employee Suggestion Program

Posted on January 27, 2015

Promoting the launch of your employee suggestion program is a critical first step to driving engagement. 

You should be prepared to promote the launch and use wall signage, internal email newsletters, and company meetings to explain the program to employees, teach them how to use it, and communicate the company’s commitment to the initiative. If you don’t do this, you won’t get employee participation, and without that, you can’t achieve the process for innovation that’ll truly give your company the competitive edge it needs.

But don’t stop there. 

Promoting the program and getting employees to offer up those first suggestions is the first step in a long long journey of making your employee suggestion program a success. You need to motivate employees to keep making suggestions by rewarding them for doing so.

In this post, we’ll give you some tips on how to effectively reward people for participating in your employee suggestion program.

A Note About Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

When contemplating employee rewards, you should think strategically about the kinds of rewards that motivate people and why. For this, it’s important to consider the psychology of motivation

Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic means “internal” or “inside of yourself.” When you are intrinsically motivated, you enjoy something solely for the satisfaction of learning and having fun, and you are determined to strive inwardly in order to be competent. There is not an external factor when intrinsic motivation is there. 

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation

For employee suggestions, one may be intrinsically driven by an idealistic view of the world and a desire to “fix” things, no matter what the context. Providing suggestions and sharing ideas soothes this idealism in some ways.

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic means external or outside of yourself. This type of motivation is everywhere. When you are motivated to do things based on a highly regarded outcome, rather than for the fun, development or learning provided within an experience, you are being extrinsically motivated.

Examples of Extrinsic Motivation

Trophies, medals, money, discounts, grades, entrance to certain schools, commission, new clothes and losing weight are all examples of extrinsic motivators. In childhood, bribery is used as an extrinsic motivator. Schools use grades to motivate students. Trophies and academic recognition based on good behavior or grades are also examples of extrinsic motivation.

How to Appeal to Both Intrinsically and Extrinsically Motivated Employees

To strategically reward employees for suggestions in employee suggestion programs, it’s important to appeal to both kinds of motivation.

Rewarding Intrinsically Motivated Employees

Let’s start with the least obvious. These people are your early adopters, but for people with internal motivation, a gift card or good parking spot won’t cut it. Their suggestion comes from an internal desire, and the manager’s job is to nurture and validate that internal motivation. A simple “thank you” email directly to the employee could go a long way to recognize the employee’s contribution but not cheapen their contribution. Most of all, being responsive, providing feedback on their ideas, and moving those ideas forward is the most motivating thing you can do of all.

Rewarding Extrinsically Motivated Employees

For those not naturally inclined to provide suggestions, a reward for participation could certainly help spark some interest in an employee suggestion program, but it won’t make or break the deal. They’ll likely need to see that employee suggestions are being listened to by seeing what happens to early adopters’ ideas before they participate. A track record, combined with the potential for a reward like a gift card, could be enough to nudge these employees over the edge and get them to participate.

Key Takeaways

You may have been expecting a list of cool gifts for employees in this post, and for that, we’re a little sorry. But it’s more important to think through what you’re trying to accomplish with employee rewards, and knowing the psychology behind what motivates people is a first step to doing just that. Get to know your people, figure out what action you want them to take, and reward accordingly.

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