These three elements embody the human need for recognition and purpose. Just as they thirst for water and hunger for nourishment, people crave appreciation from their peers, supervisors and clients. To get philosophical, it's about acknowledging their existence as an individual, as a consciousness, as a person. To get down to business, social recognition can have a much greater ROI than other motivation strategies because it taps into what really inspires human behavior.


Stop spending money on monetary rewards


Enterprises spend a whole lot of money on cash rewards and other prizes every year. Just how much are we talking? Try $38 billion. So why are engagement levels still so devastatingly low, with a mere 29 percent of workers feeling recognized for their contributions? Because cash bonuses and other prizes might be fun to receive and use, but they're not all that meaningful. Their link to the behavior and successes that they're supposed to reward is pretty tenuous at best. In fact, as Dan Pink has stated in his talks about motivation, monetary rewards can actually decrease performance of non-trivial tasks.


After a few weeks or months pass, employees might remember the prizes, but they may not call to mind what they did to receive them. Such strategies neither make a lasting impact on team members' behavior nor do they foster greater commitment and passion among the company's best talent.


Taking the MAP route


How does social recognition fit into mastery, autonomy and purpose? It's designed to acknowledge achievements and encourage workers to develop strengths in key skill areas, offering praise and validation when employees show real talent that can continue to enhance the organization's success. It fosters self-sufficiency and demonstrates trust by allowing co-workers to praise one another for excellence they observe in their peers while also facilitating discussions and building community. These aspects all point toward the company's greater purpose, connecting workers' individual contributions to the broader mission and the organization's success.


It's not hard to see how this approach adds far more meaning to employees' efforts than traditional prize programs. The success of a strategy like this lies in its ability to tap into intrinsic motivators. Social recognition programs appeal to the human desire to have their efforts validated and appreciated. Furthermore, this type of program inspires workers to care about their jobs, professional development, outcomes and working relationships, rather than turning their minds to the shopping spree they can enjoy if they just meet that quota.


At the end of the day, people will be influenced more by their desire to be appreciated, and to be part of something bigger than themselves, rather than material incentives. Implementing an employee engagement solution that incorporates mastery, autonomy and purpose is a profitable investment. And that'll put you on the path to success.


To learn more about how the right recognition program motivates employees, download our white paper, "Social Recognition Programs: Why They Matter."