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Coffee Can Equal Motivation for Employees

Coffee = motivation. Now let me explain why.

Refill Coffee Cart serving the team at Care Around the Block in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Hello, there. Amy, here! I’m married to Adam and take care of the Human Resources side of Refill Coffee Cart. At my day job, I’m in charge of the employee experience for nearly 1,800 employees. My background is in sociology and educational psychology, and one of the topics we talk about a lot in those fields is what helps people feel motivated and engaged in their work. So I want to talk to you, other business friends, about how to show your employees you appreciate their hard work.

Rewards and recognition are something all employees want (even if some claim they don’t). These only work well, however, when they are done right. This means they are

  1. Appropriate

  2. Based on completed work (not as a motivator to do work)

  3. Customized to the employee


You exceed your quarterly sales goals! Great! What’s an appropriate way to award your team? An extra week-long vacation for everyone? A chocolate bar and an email that says “good job team”? It is probably somewhere in-between, but the main thing is the reward and recognition need to be representative of the impact your employees made. Why? If the reward or recognition is too small, they may feel like what they did really didn’t matter; it actually may be de-motivating. If the reward is too big or the recognition too blown up, they may see it as disingenuous or at very least may expect better the next time they beat their goal. Can you one-up yourself every time? Finding a balance for an appropriate acknowledgement is key to helping your employees feel that you genuinely care.

Based on a job well-done (not as a motivator to do the work)

If you do “x” task, you get a gift card! Does that really work? The short answer is no, at least not in the long-term. Daniel Pink is one of my favorite authors on this topic. In his book called Drive, Pink talks about what happens when people use rewards as a motivator to do work. In most cases what will happen in this “task means gift card” type of system is that when that reward or promotion goes away, people will no longer want to do the work. Here is the crazy part. They won’t want to do it anymore EVEN IF they enjoyed doing the work before the reward came into play. Now that we’ve made the behavior based on the reward, people will only want to do the behavior if the reward is in play. Instead, we should make rewards a genuine thank you for a job well done instead of an “if/then” motivation to get someone to do the job in the first place.

Customized to the employee

“Could I have everyone’s attention? Jordan, could you please come to the front? We want to tell you what a great job you did…” If you were Jordan, would you take a bow or want to hide in the bathroom for the next week of your life? Recognition works best when you know your employees and what is meaningful to them. What is the best way to find out? Ask them! In my work, we give every new employee a questionnaire that asks about how they prefer to be recognized (privately, publicly, by team party, by hand-written note, etc.) and what their favorite small treats are (candy, plants, work-appropriate beverages, etc.). We give that information to their manager so that they have a head start on how to customize rewards and recognition to that person. When you customize your recognition, your employees see you are listening and you care about them as a person. And you know another way to show you care about your employees? Tell them EXACTLY what they did well. Instead of a generic “great job in the meeting today,” what if you said “I loved how you presented your points in the meeting with the perfect balance of data and passion. You had the VP’s full attention, and that is not an easy task. Great job.” Now that is the kind of customized feedback that employee will go home and tell their family about. It fills their cup and shows you pay attention. And speaking of filling their cup…

Coffee = motivation

Hopefully, these ABCs of motivation helped you think about how you are rewarding and recognizing your employees. But you may still wondering how coffee = motivation so here it is. What better way is there to tell your employees “thanks for the fine work you do” than a hot, iced, or frozen caffeinated beverage served by a friendly barista? We are not just a drink cart; our model is to become a part of your employees’ great experience at work. Refill’s philosophy is to make the people who come to our cart leave it having a better day than they were when they came. We are an appropriate reward for most occasions from hitting a huge organizational goal or simply a morale boost after having a rough month. We are a great way to base your thank you on a job well done. And we are completely customized to what your employees want. We have everything from low-sugar, dairy free, no actual coffee in the cup, or a treat-yourself type of decadent beverage. If you want to start giving meaningful and motivating recognition to your employees, we would love to help you do it.

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