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Faculty Insights

“Want to Motivate a New Employee? Surprise Them with a Raise.”

By Wisconsin School of Business

December 18, 2013

In nearly every management or leadership program I facilitate, the topic of motivation and effectively motivating other comes up in conversation. Interesting, this is not an issue unique to new managers and frontline supervisors. Senior managers and even C-suite leaders return to this challenge of motivation, looking for better ways to improve productivity and increase employee engagement. 
An article in a recent Fortune Magazine highlighted one basic premise of motivation that I always try to reinforce in the classroom. The article was titled “Want to Motivate a New Employee? Surprise Them with a Raise.” Of course, the title caught my attention. I had recently hired some folks and I thought maybe I could deploy a new technique. 
The research the article cited was compelling. Experiments showed pretty conclusively that, in fact, offering a new employee a raise soon after their start date did improve the employee’s productivity. Or did it? When the research was unpacked, something else was revealed. It turns out the money itself did not boost the productivity. Instead, in most cases, it was simply the “gesture” of offering a raise. This simple act of managerial “kindness” invoked a response of reciprocation: “You did something nice for me, so I’ll do something nice in return.” 
The basic premise about motivation I try to reinforce? Managers who show authentic interest in the engagement of their staff will be rewarded with better productivity. This article reminds all of us that sometimes it is simple managerial gestures of gratitude that make the great impact on those that work with us. And you can take that to the bank…so to speak.