Motivation in the office: Group identity matters

Recognition programs attuned to the group dynamics of a workplace can maximize individual contributions to overall goals.

Rewards and recognition can be tuned for maximum effectiveness.

Rewards and recognition can be tuned for maximum effectiveness.

Motivation is an intangible quality in an office, one whose effects are evident in the extreme. When a team feels fired up to do a good job, it can reach impressive heights, showing a marked difference from groups that don’t believe in their objectives or don’t think success is possible.

Leaders today need deep tool kits of tactics to increase the motivation of their team members, including feedback and recognition strategies. When workers are given good incentives and recognized adequately for excellence, the relationship between all levels of the organization stands to improve. However, these strategies aren’t an automatic recipe for great teamwork, and managers need to focus on how they go about implementing them.

Group identity vs. individual excellence
Harvard Business Review contributors Jay Van Bavel and Dominic Packer recently offered a warning for leaders looking for appropriate rewards for their employees. Namely, the process of only recognizing individual contributions, a very common concept today, may erode the connections between team members. When employees are placed into teams, they take on new objectives and priorities, which become part of their makeup. They start to think about collective success and achievement, a helpful trait in any industry.

“Melding two types of recognition is one way to maximize overall effectiveness.”

Leaders who have the opportunity to strengthen group identification should try to do so, and the authors noted that reward and recognition programs can suit this goal, provided they are tuned to suit teamwork-intensive environments. For instance, major rewards and privileges can be handed out based on the overall performance of a team rather than individual objectives. More traditional rewards for single employees still exist in this system, given to individuals who helped the group the most. Melding the two types of recognition is one way to maximize overall effectiveness.

Corporate values as a trigger
There are several ways to tune recognition programs to go beyond celebrating singular achievements and create greater connections. For instance, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently announced the results of a study that found firms can reinforce their core values by making those the basis of the reward systems. Whatever the organization values most, the principles it was founded on, can become a direct inspiration for recognition. This may help employees internalize the identity of the company and put in effort toward living up to its standards.

When team members are living up to the organization’s core mission, the firm may have an easier time expressing itself to the public. The SHRM stated that 80 percent of firms responding to its survey found that value-linked recognition programs helped the firm project its branding to the world at large. In a world defined by customer choice, this is a good quality to have.

Getting ready to reward
Leaders don’t automatically learn how to reward their employees. This is a learned skill, and feedback and recognition comprise one of the many available topic areas from Mastery TCN’s catalog of courses. Considering the potential dangers of failed recognition structures and the advantages of good employee incentives, it’s clear that there is value in becoming better at this very specific kind of HR management. It’s common for companies to reward some workers, but how many have given their programs the appropriate level of focus?

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