Influencing Employee Performance and Motivation: The Power of Rewards Strategies


Employee performance and motivation are critical factors that determine an organization’s success. Companies understand that a motivated and high-performing workforce can drive overall organizational performance, productivity, and growth.

To achieve this, organizations employ a combination of performance management and rewards strategies that not only encourage individual and group excellence but also shape the organizational culture. In this article, we explore how companies leverage rewards strategies to influence employee performance and motivation effectively.

The Intersection of Performance Management and Rewards

Performance management and rewards systems are intertwined aspects of organizational management. These systems go beyond mere administrative functions; they offer insights into how a company values and manages its employees’ performance. The way an organization designs its rewards program reflects its commitment to recognizing and appreciating employee contributions. This, in turn, has a significant impact on employee motivation and overall organizational success.

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Defining Rewards Systems

Rewards systems encompass a framework that organizations create and manage to ensure that employees’ efforts and accomplishments are acknowledged and reciprocated. These rewards can take various forms, such as monetary incentives or other extrinsic benefits, designed to inspire employees to sustain their exceptional performance. Compensation programs, employee benefits, and additional extrinsic rewards collectively shape the rewards landscape.

The Role of Compensation in Rewards Programs

One of the key components of a rewards program is the compensation system. Most organizations aim to establish a pay-for-performance compensation structure. This approach recognizes and rewards employees based on their performance levels and contributions to the organization. The philosophy behind pay for performance centers on encouraging the best-performing employees while aligning with business goals.

The Driving Factors behind Rewards Strategies

Companies implement rewards strategies to achieve several objectives. The top drivers for moving toward a pay-for-performance strategy include:

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  1. Recognizing and Rewarding High Performers: Nearly half of organizations prioritize recognizing and rewarding top-performing employees, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging excellence.
  2. Achieving Corporate Goals: Aligning rewards with corporate objectives increases the likelihood of reaching organizational milestones.
  3. Improving Productivity: A rewards strategy can enhance productivity by motivating employees to excel in their roles.
  4. Shifting Away from an Entitlement Culture: By linking rewards to performance, companies encourage a culture of meritocracy and effort-driven success.

The specific emphasis on these drivers may vary between high-performing and lower-performing organizations, but the underlying goal remains consistent: using rewards to stimulate employee performance.

Pay for Performance in Practice

The concept of pay for performance thrives across industries. A survey on compensation programs and practices revealed that over 70% of companies directly tie pay increases to job performance. Moreover, increases for top performers are often significantly higher than those for average performers, typically 1.5 times more. This approach reinforces the company’s commitment to rewarding exceptional contributions and differentiating between performance levels.

Crafting an Effective Rewards Strategy

Creating and managing a successful rewards strategy requires careful planning and execution. Human resource management plays a pivotal role in this process by:

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  1. Defining the Organization’s Pay Philosophy: Leadership must agree on promoting a culture that values and rewards strong performance.
  2. Assessing Financial Impacts: Analyzing the cost and differentiation of performance-based compensation.
  3. Addressing Process Gaps: Identifying and rectifying conflicts between existing HR policies and pay-for-performance goals.
  4. Updating Compensation Processes: Designing matrices that link performance to compensation and bonuses.
  5. Communication and Training: Educating managers and employees about the rewards philosophy and changes.

The Holistic Total Rewards Approach

While compensation is a significant part of rewards strategies, it represents just one facet of the broader total rewards model. Total rewards encompass multiple elements that collectively define an organization’s approach to attracting, motivating, retaining, and engaging employees. These elements include :

  • Compensation—Pay provided by an employer to its employees for services rendered (i.e., time, effort, and skill). This includes both fixed and variable pay tied to performance levels.
  • Benefits—Programs an employer uses to supplement the cash compensation employees receive. These bhealth, income protection, savings, and retirement programs provide security for employees and their families.
  • Work-life effectiveness—A specific set of organizational practices, policies, and programs, plus a philosophy that actively supports efforts to help employees achieve success at both work and home.
  • Recognition—Formal or informal programs that acknowledge or give special attention to employee actions, efforts, behavior, or performance and support business strategy by reinforcing behaviors (e.g., extraordinary accomplishments) that contribute to organizational success.
  • Performance management—The alignment of organizational, team, and individual efforts toward the achievement of business goals and organizational success. Performance management includes establishing expectations, skill demonstration, assessment, feedback, and continuous improvement.
  • Talent development—Provides the opportunity and tools for employees to advance their skills and competencies in both their short- and long-term careers.

An effective total rewards strategy addresses employees’ diverse needs and motivations, ultimately fostering a thriving work environment.

Understanding Motivational Drives

Motivating employees requires a nuanced understanding of their intrinsic drives. Four primary drives underlie human motivation:

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  1. Drive to Acquire: Individuals seek to acquire goods and rewards to enhance their well-being. Organizations address this drive through differentiated compensation and performance-linked rewards.
  2. Drive to Bond: Employees strive for a sense of belonging and collaboration within the organizational culture. Fostering teamwork, mutual reliance, and friendship aligns with this drive.
  3. Drive to Comprehend: People are motivated by making meaningful contributions and understanding challenges. Job design that emphasizes roles and contributions caters to this drive.
  4. Drive to Defend: Instinctive self-defense extends to protecting one’s interests in the workplace. Transparent performance management and fair resource allocation resonate with this drive.


Rewards strategies are potent tools that organizations wield to shape employee performance and motivation. By implementing pay-for-performance systems and aligning rewards with corporate goals, companies create a culture of excellence and accountability. Through a holistic total rewards approach, organizations cater to employees’ multifaceted needs, nurturing a workplace where motivation thrives. Understanding and addressing employees’ intrinsic drives ensure that rewards strategies resonate deeply, driving sustained performance and fostering organizational success.

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