Demotivational Tools – Reward and Recognition

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Hold on, surely you mean “Motivational”? I hear you say.

I was in a discussion on one of the Forums recently and the topic came up of how to motivate people. I suggested that for many organisations the question should be, not so much how to motivate them, as how not to demotivate them.

Well okay, it does depend on the organisation and the type of work being done. Yet where “motivated people” are needed, I would suggest people start off keen and motivated. It’s what happens to them afterward that can turn them into cynical, demotivated people. True this can also happen to them through their experiences during education, however perhaps it is time to question whether what we do to our people is actually motivating them, or whether it is having some other effect?

So, why do we have reward and recognition systems? The argument goes thus. We want to be able to identify our good people, we want to give them an incentive to perform well. When they do perform well we will give them a bonus of some form; a reward.

Well, how many people are you going to reward? Perhaps about 10% or fewer? That means around 90% of people aren’t getting rewarded and recognised. No matter how good their work during the year, this good work is not being recognised. How do you think this makes them feel?

One of the sayings I like is that “80% of people think they are in the top 20%”. That’s a topic I might come back to in a later article. Let’s suppose it is true. That would suggest that your “reward and recognition” system has just made at least 70% of your people upset. Oops!

But then what about the people you did reward? This year it is fine, but take care. They are likely to want to be rewarded for all future work. Do you want to keep rewarding them forever? As soon as the rewards stop, you have an even more dissatisfied person. Hmm… that is exactly what you didn’t want to do, is it not?

Research shows that for mechanical, repetitive work, monetary rewards work. However, as soon as you need any cognitive skills at all, rewards seem to make people perform less well, rather than better… highly counter-intuitive, but the results have been repeated in study after study!

There’s a nice little YouTube video on this topic from Dan Pink; at around 10 minutes long it is both educational and entertaining; surely worth a look?

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