Engaged Culture4

Whitepaper: What Moves You?

Understanding incentives, motivation, and rewards in agile organisations

Evan Leybourn, Patrick Li, Jason Hall, Fabiola Eyholzer, Pia-Maria Thoren

August 10, 2018


To help organizations on the journey and to answer the question “How do leading agile organizations motivate, reward and incentivize their people”, the Business Agility Institute brought together eight thought-leaders to share their insights and compile the best available research on the topic. We understand that creating a reward system to support business agility in large organizations is a complex task. This whitepaper will kickstart the conversation and we hope it will shed some light on the complexity involved. We want you to create a workforce that loves what they do and how they get to do it.


Imagine leading a workforce that LOVES what they do! A group of motivated individuals who, not only, come into the office to do their job, but take ownership of their work, build respectful connections with their peers and delight their customers. A group that, at its core, has a sincere desire to create value with minimal effort and attention.

It would be uncontroversial to say that every manager strives for this. Leading to the obvious question, “How do I motivate my team members?”. Yet there is a fundamental problem with this question. We cannot create motivation. Motivation is intrinsic. What a leader can do is create the space to align a team member’s intrinsic motivation to corporate goals.

Traditional employment contracts and reward programs are ineffective, and at times counterintuitive to, achieving this alignment. Most organizations use blunt instruments to motivate their staff. Most commonly, negotiated base pay and individual performance-based annual bonuses.

Business agility changes this. To adapt to a volatile and unpredictable market, these organizations delegate business outcomes and decisions to the people closest to the customer; usually teams and team members. This approach requires alignment and buy-in from all personnel, which in turn requires a new approach to motivation and finer instruments than traditionally used. Knowing what moves people is the next step in evolving an agile organization.

Agile organizations know how to tap into the intrinsic motivations of their team members. These include a combination of meaningful forward-looking incentives and backward-looking rewards designed to complement each other. Thus, incentives drive today’s behavior and rewards become tomorrow’s incentives. Leaders must personalize both for each team member.

The inverse is also true. Organizations that claim to be “agile” but do not change their incentive and reward programs struggle to live up to their own goals. In the worst case, we ask team members to be agile but incentivize them to do exactly the opposite.

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With sincere thanks to; Evan Leybourn, Kevin Empey, Patrick Li, Fabiola Eyholzer, Jason Hall, Jas Chong, Pia-Maria Thoren, and Chip Loving

All content on this page is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license. You are free to share the material in any medium or format and adapt/build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially. 

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