Original Research

How can work be designed to be intrinsically rewarding? Qualitative insights from South African non-profit employees

Michelle Renard, Robin J. Snelgar
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 42, No 1 | a1346 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v42i1.1346 | © 2016 Michelle Renard, Robin J. Snelgar | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 January 2016 | Published: 28 July 2016

About the author(s)

Michelle Renard, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa
Robin J. Snelgar, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa

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Orientation: Intrinsic rewards are personal, psychological responses to the work thatemployees perform, which stem from the manner in which their work is designed.

Research purpose: This study sought to discover in what ways non-profit employees arepsychologically rewarded by the nature of their work tasks. The use of a qualitative approachto data collection and analysis ensured that in-depth responses from participants were gained.

Motivation for the study: Intrinsic rewards are of particular importance to non-profitemployees, who tend to earn below-market salaries. This implies that their motivationoriginates predominantly from intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic rewards; yet, research into thisarea of rewards is lacking.

Research approach, design and method: In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conductedusing a sample of 15 extrinsically rewarded non-profit employees working within South Africa.Thematic analysis was utilised in order to generate codes which led to the formation of fiveintrinsic rewards categories.

Main findings: Intrinsic rewards were classified into five categories, namely (1) MeaningfulWork, (2) Flexible Work, (3) Challenging Work, (4) Varied Work and (5) Enjoyable Work.These rewards each comprise of various subcategories, which provide insight into why suchwork is rewarding to non-profit employees.

Practical/managerial implications: Traditional performance management systems shouldbe re-evaluated in the non-profit sector to shift focus towards intrinsic rewards, asopposed to focusing only on the use of extrinsic rewards such as incentives to motivateemployees.

Contribution/value-add: The study provides a qualitative understanding of how extrinsicallyrewarded non-profit employees perceive their work to be intrinsically rewarding, whichbridges the empirical gap pertaining to intrinsic rewards within this sector.


Intrinsic Rewards; Job Design; Non-Profit Management; Motivation


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