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Managers: Increase Productivity By Giving Your Reports What They Want


Looking for ways to motivate employees? Look no further; the tenets of Expectancy Theory will guide you to pay attention to what your workers want and reward them in ways they appreciate. Different workers may want different things, but all workers will become more productive when they know the reward will be something they value. It’s not always a raise, either. Sometimes, it’s just a pat on the back.

(Photo Credit: Avard Woolaver/Flickr)

Expectancy Theory

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Expectancy Theory is a psychological theory of motivation that may increase employee motivation and productivity. In short, expectancy theory states that employees will work toward rewards that they expect in return for their efforts. For this to increase productivity, a few things have to be in place:

  • The worker must believe that a specific reward will be given in return for successful completion of a project or goal. If the worker does not trust the manager to follow through with the reward, this falls apart. 
  • The reward is valuable to the worker, in other words, the worker wants the reward. No point in offering something people don’t want. 
  • The effort required is worth it to receive the reward. For example, an hour of overtime pay may not be enough incentive to make a worker want to stay late, but throw in a free pizza and you may have increased motivation and productivity.

The key to successful implementation of expectancy theory in the workplace is for managers and employees to trust each other, and for managers to know a little bit about what individual workers want. One person may need overtime hours, another may want to leave early to spend more time with his family. Therefore, crafting rewards that workers appreciate is important.

Non-Monetary Rewards

We all think of more money as a good reward, and rightly so. Most employees are there because they need to support themselves and their families. For managers and owners working under tight budgets, there are creative ways to reward employees without spending a lot of money. All it takes is understanding what individual employees may appreciate.

Mike Michalowicz, CEO of Provendus Group and the author of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, suggests 51 rewards with which to motivate employees that cost no or very little money. A few of my personal favorites include:

  • A handwritten thank-you note, or a public thank you; 
  • Find out what their favorite drink or snack is, and stock the break room with those choices; 
  • Offer a day off as a reward for great work; 
  • Hire a massage therapist to come in and give chair massages one day; and 
  • A parking spot.

Always follow through with what you say you will do, and generate motivation and productivity because employees trust you and can expect the rewards you promise in return for their labor and success.

Tell Us What You Think

Does your workplace offer creative rewards? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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Thanks, Beth! It was a pleasure to read such an interesting information about Expectancy Theory. In our agency we motivate employees, by giving them chance to choose the tool that works best for managing their processes. It simple, but really helpful. For example, the biggest part of our team use (project management tool, that allows you organize task lists the way they look in your mind). It’s great and easy and helps us to feel more comfortable on our… Read more »

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