Today’s entry is from guest blogger Dr. Steven Goodwin.

People are motivated by much more than money. This means that granting an employee a salary increase is not the only means to encourage positive work behavior. Researchers Richard King and Judith Mathers of the University of Northern Colorado found that intrinsic rewards, non-monetary rewards, and public awareness of poor performance were more motivating than money.

Other studies, like those undertaken at Harvard, Cornell, and UCLA, have likewise confirmed that a well-conceived employee-recognition program will have significant impact on retention of the most talented employees, as well as on job satisfaction.

Guiding Principles

Author Woodruff Imberman cites a 2001 Harvard University study that found that successful recognition programs are guided by the following ten principles:

  1. Employee efforts are recognized are repeated.
  2. Recognition programs and subsequent employee awards are administered as a process, not as a simple incentive program.
  3. What matter to employees is public recognition in front of their peers. Physical awards given are just a tangible way to say, “Thanks for a job well done.”
  4. Recognition of employee teams is more beneficial than individual recognition.
  5. Recognition must be immediate, specific, and personal.
  6. Recognition is given for specific events, not sustained performance.
  7. Quality must be recognized and rewarded.
  8. Awards are to be publicized.
  9. Employees are involved in designing, implementing, and administering the recognition and awards program.
  10. Recognition is a worthwhile investment in people. It is hard to measure the benefits, but clearly much can be lost when exceptional work goes unrecognized.


Here are a number of concrete ways to reward for superior performance:

  • A better position title
  • Opportunity to learn a new skill, take a training, etc.
  • An extra-long lunch break
  • Flexible work schedule for day
  • Recognition before one’s peers
  • Public praise in a newsletter
  • Permission to work on a pet project
  • Given more work that the employee enjoys
  • Offered a more preferable work space
  • Opportunity to work with people the employee enjoys
  • Team-based reward
  • Recommendation on website
  • Recommendation on LinkedIn


Non-monetary rewards are easier to specify and use than are sanctions. Rewards have the effect of “pulling” the employee into desired behavior rather than “pushing” them against their will.

Nevertheless, sometimes it is essential to sanction unwanted behaviors and work productivity. Sanctions must be used very carefully so as to not shame or humiliate an employee and certainly not to cross over into legally actionable items. Ideally, sanctions should fall into the realm of mild social disapproval.

The following are examples of effective non-monetary sanctions to discourage undesirable workplace behaviors:

  • Given more work that the employee dislikes
  • Mild to moderate disapproval of work performance in front of others
  • Physical relocation to a less preferable work space
  • Written reprimand in personnel file

As you think about your ministry team, give thoughtful consideration to establishing your own system of non-monetary rewards. It will go a long way towards improving your ministry’s morale and individual employee satisfaction.

The Rev. Dr. Steven Goodwin is a Lutheran minister who now serves God as the President of TurningWest, a national organization and leadership development firm ( He lives in Chino Hills, CA with Lisa, his wife of 29 years, while they support their two children away at college.