Management Matters Management MattersManagement Matters
Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

Beyond the Bonus

Private sector managers are struggling with the inability to give the raises and bonuses they used to rely on to motivate and reward high-performing employees. Federal managers have always had to be a little more creative in this arena, and have a number of options to keep employees engaged and feeling challenged and content.

Mike Periu, a business and finance expert and founder of EcoFin Media, has written extensively about alternatives to pay raises to motivate employees. On his website,, he says the three factors that enhance employee's performance are autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Autonomy does not mean that managers let employees run amok, but rather they avoid micromanaging and send the message that they trust employees' judgment. The goal, Periu says, is to reassure employees that you feel they are competent to handle responsibility and that they can apply their effort and thinking to the problem at hand.

Mastery means continual improvement in a specific area, with the goal of "eventual domination over a specific set of tasks or skills," Periu says. The thinking here, he says, is the better employees are at doing something, the more they will enjoy it.

Purpose is the sense that what an employee is working on is part of something larger and more important than that employee or that particular task.

In many ways, the federal government has an edge on the private sector in addressing these factors, especially purpose. With even the most mundane task, managers can reinvigorate their employees by tying that task to the office's mission, or even that of the parent agency. And employees who come up with cost savings or efficiency ideas, for example, should be reminded that they did more than come up with a good idea at work -- they saved taxpayer dollars and demonstrated the federal government's commitment to being a good steward of those dollars.

These factors tie in to one another. An employee who has a clear and constant sense of purpose is more likely to be successful without excessive managerial oversight, allowing everyone to feel comfortable granting him or her greater autonomy. And doing tasks without constant direction, supervision or micromanagement certainly is going to lead to greater mastery of those tasks.

Two other tried-and-true methods of motivating employees and increasing productivity that Periu suggests are telework and training. The federal government, so far, has shied away from framing telework as a reward, but there is no question that it allows employees a greater sense of autonomy and demonstrates managers' trust in the employee's self-motivation and sense of purpose. Training, on the other hand, increases autonomy by providing employees with a sense of control over their career development and, of course, puts them on the road to mastery. has a helpful roundup of training opportunities and venues for federal workers. Make it available to your employees and encourage them to request the opportunity to attend sessions and programs that interest them.

Elizabeth Newell covered management, human resources and contracting at Government Executive for three years.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.