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Employee Recognition: Intrinsic motivation for your staff

In HR-speak, the term “employee recognition and reward” relates to the practice of acknowledging an individual or team’s behaviour, performance and accomplishment when such efforts contribute to the organisation’s goals and values.

Traditionally, common forms of employee recognition and reward have been monetary. Think salary increases, bonuses, gift cards etc. Everyone is motivated by financial incentives, right?


And here’s the reason: typically, it’s because of the confusion between recognition and incentives and the relevance of intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

Different types of motivation

Intrinsic motivation is defined as the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfaction rather than for some separable consequence.

An example would be someone participating in a sport because they find the activity enjoyable.

Extrinsic motivation refers to doing something not for its inherent enjoyment, but for a separable outcome.

An example of this would be someone who participates in a sport to win awards.

Find out more about ways you can motivate your employees.

The issue with financial incentives

In social psychology, it’s well documented that attaching monetary incentives to a task actually lowers motivation.

When a task is extrinsically rewarded, employees may feel motivated for a certain time or until the task finishes. But when the reward is lowered or removed, the employee’s interest in the task drops and intrinsic motivation is gone.

There arises the need for extrinsic rewards to be offered continuously to keep even simple activities going…and that’s an ongoing cost to you.

Conversely, employee recognition is a form of non-monetary reward.

What is the difference between recognition and an incentive?

Recognition simply refers to witnessing and appreciating the positive contributions of the employees, making them realise their efforts are being noticed and that people are aware their work is valued.

Recognition taps into an individual’s intrinsic motivations.

Simplest place to start? Three steps:

  1. Acknowledge people: when they do a good job, go over and above or provide constructive suggestions to improve the business.
  2. Be timely: the recognition should occur as close to the performance of the actions as possible, so the recognition reinforces the behaviour you wish to encourage.
  3. Consider the impact of using the word “together” to foster a workplace environment of connection and belonging.  Read more about the benefits of using this word here.

What makes employee recognition so effective?

Employee recognition reinforces the key results that your people create for your business.

Employees gain a better understanding of how you would like to see them contributing in the workplace (and are more likely to repeat such actions) when they know their contributions are consistently recognised.


When it comes to employee productivity, not all motivation is the same.

Before you go down the track of investing time, money and energy with financial rewards for your team, you might like to consider the recognition approach.

Best part? Recognition is free.

What’s not to like about something that will cost you nothing?

Like to know more about getting the best from your people?

Bare Bones Consulting is an experienced HR Consultancy on the Gold Coast. We can also provide HR services in Brisbane and assist business owners all over Australia with HR solutions.

Call Greg today for a complimentary first consultation or, if you’re too busy recognising your team’s performance to call, drop us an email through our “Contact Us” page here.

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    Burleigh Town 4220,
  • 07 5576 4693
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  • Bare Bones Consulting

Contact Us

Give Bare Bones Consulting a call to discuss our range of HR services to help your business succeed.

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Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.