According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, managers should consider offering rewards for employees to choose from, in order to help boost their creativity.
Employees participating in the study were given three reward options: a financial reward for the individual employee or their team, a self-discretionary reward such as getting priority to select days off, or a donation the company made to a charity selected by the employee.
The researchers found that those choices had positive effects on the number of creative ideas employees generated and the creativity level of those ideas; the choice of rewards fostered creativity by raising the employees' belief in their own abilities to be creative. In addition, rewards aimed at helping others, such as the charity donation, appeared to be especially meaningful.
"Organizations spend a lot of resources and exert a great deal of effort in designing incentive schemes that reward the employees who exhibit creativity at work," said co-author Jing Zhou, professor of management and psychology at Rice's Jones Graduate School of Business. "Our results showed that the effort may be a bit misplaced. Instead of discovering one reward type that is particularly effective at promoting creativity, what is more effective is to provide the employees with the opportunity to choose from several reward types, if they submit one or more ideas that are among the top 20% most creative ones."