Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Intrinsic Rewards and Work Engagement in the South African Retail Industry

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Intrinsic Rewards and Work Engagement in the South African Retail Industry

Article excerpt


Traditionally, organisations have used money, benefits and other extrinsic rewards to attract, retain, motivate and engage employees, believing that properly administered extrinsic rewards systems were the panacea for all employee issues (Allen & Helms, 2001). Extrinsic rewards are typically financial in nature and are external to the work itself, including any tangible reward provided to employees (Thomas, 2009a). Unlike extrinsic rewards, intrinsic rewards are intangible and fundamentally inherent in a job (Taylor, 2008).

At the beginning of the 20th century, work often consisted of repetitive, highly prescribed routine tasks, requiring rule compliance (Pink, 2009; Thomas, 2009a). The use of extrinsic rewards was effective in motivating behaviours relevant to such tasks (Pink, 2009). However, there have been many important economic, business and social developments that have changed the nature of work and the working environment. Thus, whilst extrinsic rewards such as base pay have to date been cited as the most preferred rewards by South African employees (Snelgar, Renard & Venter, 2013), the aforementioned developments require re-evaluating the rewards provided to employees.

With many repetitive manufacturing jobs being sent overseas, there is now greater importance being placed on knowledge and service-based industries (Armstrong & Brown, 2009). Coupled with the changing type of work, tough economic times and the increasingly competitive nature of the global marketplace, organisations have begun re-examining traditional reward methods. Furthermore, not only have employees' expectations of their employers changed, but younger generations of employees are particularly likely to want purpose, meaning and development opportunities in their jobs, and are willing to leave if they do not receive these intrinsic rewards (Tsui & Wu, 2005). Therefore, the use of and interest in intrinsic rewards is burgeoning, due to the positive workrelated impact of intrinsic rewards such as job satisfaction and emotional attachment (Nujjoo & Meyer, 2012).

Organisations require employees to take initiative and responsibility, adapt to customer needs, provide creative solutions, share knowledge and work with other teams in the organisation to be successful (Cruz, Perez & Cantero, 2009; Pink, 2009; Markova & Ford, 2011). Jobs in the growing knowledge and service-based sectors often require high levels of employee innovation, knowledge and creativity (Markova & Ford, 2011). These behaviours have been associated with work engagement (Towers Perrin, 2005; Purcell, Kinnie, Hutchinson, Rayton & Swart, 2003; Thomas, 2009c).

In the retail industry, employee behaviours such as product knowledge, delivering on promises and actively listening to customers is what drives customer satisfaction (Evenson, 2007). For employees to behave in this manner, they must be mentally and emotionally engaged in their work and be willing to put in additional discretionary effort, all of which are features of work engagement (Gibbons, 2006). It is therefore not surprising that there has been growing interest into how to drive work engagement, including within the retail industry.

Moreover, with the flatter organisational structures that are characteristic of many modern organisations, there is now a greater need for employees to take initiative and be self-directing and flexible. With fewer middle managers, employees are to a certain extent required to self-manage their time and deliver independently on targets (Thomas, 2009c). This requires employees to be engaged in their work.

This current context has led to the re-evaluation of the use of purely financial means to motivate and engage employees, with increasing evidence showing that extrinsic rewards, on their own, are insufficient tools to motivate and engage staff (Pink, 2009; Thomas, 2009a).

Research purpose and objectives

There is a scarcity of research investigating the importance of intrinsic rewards in a South African context (Nujjoo & Meyer, 2012). …

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