Data Dome Resources – White Papers: Recognition Top Motivator?

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Is Recognition the Best Non-Monetary Workplace Motivator?

A recent survey sponsored by a temporary staffing firm ranked the perceived effectiveness of non-monetary job motivators. They asked both CFOs and workers the question “other than financial rewards, which one of the following is the most effective means of motivating employees?”

The reigning opinion was that recognition of accomplishments topped the list, with regular communication between executives and staff coming in second.

Praise and recognition can certainly motivate. The study makes a good point about the importance of recognizing the worth of human beings in the workplace.

However, an opinion survey such as this one misses major elements necessary for effective workplace motivation. Most importantly, there is a basic lack of understanding that what will motivate one person may not motivate another since we have different priorities by behavioral preferences and personal passions. This lack is reflected in the methodology of the study, which contained too few choices.

There are many circumstances under which recognition may be a motivator, but unless you recognize for whom this is the case, you may well end up undermining the entire effort.

Unless you understand the circumstances under which recognition will motivate, it will not be effective.

Different behavioral styles involve different motivational factors. DISC style analysis uses a 4-quadrant methodology to describe how someone will behave, as well as what work environment will be most motivating and productive for that person.

When the job requires the use of personal behavioral strengths, the potential for success increases - as does the level of personal/professional satisfaction. Contemporary DISC analysis tools vary widely in validity and usable information, but there are very accurate tools available today that produce more than 200 distinct profiles.

DISC Behavioral Style Insights on Workplace Motivation

While giving personal thanks for a job well done may tend to motivate workers with a High I in their behavioral style profile, Low I’s may be suspicious of such praise.

A High I likes praise and recognition, but also needs people to talk to and a chance to help and motivate others.

If you praise High I’s, but then put them in charge of firing people, or isolate them, then your praise will mean nothing.

Recognition may please a High D - especially if it acknowledges bottom-line results and comes with prestige - but if you take away the power to make changes and confront problems or slow him/her down with a lot of repetitive tasks, then that recognition doesn’t matter.

A High C wants quality information, effective procedures, and proven strategies. Your praise may simply seem superficial - it may even annoy. A Low C that is tangled up in meaningless procedures will appreciate the opportunity to do a bit of troubleshooting - to think “out of the box.”

High S’s may like personal recognition, but are really more concerned with their routine, or niche, with the security of their position as part of a habitual status quo. If you introduce a lot of sudden changes without their advance buy-in, or rush them, they will resist/fight passively, as they won’t "show" mad but they will get even. On the other end, a Low S will be bored without some variety in the tasks they do. They need constant flow of new people and/or tasks to keep them engaged.

Passions and Priorities

In addition to behavioral style differences, the relative weight one places on the six value areas is a great indicator of the individual motivators driving behavior.

To be successful and energized on the job, underlying values must be satisfied through the nature of the work. When your passions and priorities match your work, you feel personally rewarded.

  • Theoretical - an interest in the discovery of knowledge and an appetite for learning
  • Utilitarian / Economic - a characteristic interest in money/utility and return on investment
  • Aesthetic - a relative interest in form, balance, and harmony
  • Social / Altruistic - an interest in exerting power and influence
  • Individualistic / Political - a keen interest in helping others
  • Traditional / Regulatory - a focused interest in following a specific system for living

Someone with a high theoretical value, for example, may be motivated more successfully by having access to more training than they would by receiving recognition or praise.

To Motivate, Assess!

There are now validated assessments that combine DISC analysis with values, or that add personal talents and skills, or the ideal distribution of tasks. Narrative profiles provide tips for better communication, keys to managing and motivating, and spell out the value of each person to the organization.

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