So what is the most effective way to motivate staff without compromising on productivity?
I recently read the book ‘Drive’ by Daniel Pink investigating the surprising truth about human motivation. Making Business Insider’s ‘Top 10 books that every manager should read’ list, it provided some deeply resonating insights that should revolutionise the way we consider the leadership role within our businesses. (I strongly recommend you read it!)
Pink delineates thought-provoking research surmising that “when it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does.”
For employees required to use any level of creative thought in their role – as opposed to purely rote, algorithmic tasks – the traditional ‘carrot and stick’ form of incentivising staff is not only ineffective, but is actually demotivating!
That’s right, providing awards, incentives and rewards for your staff could be what’s holding your company back from reaching its potential!
The reason is that humans are most creative and productive when intrinsically motivated, that is, motivated from within. By offering performance incentives, the human mind shifts from seeing an interesting task as an opportunity for creativity and mastery, to a drudge that must be performed in order to reach a goal set by a manager.
Rewards turn play into work.
Rather than improved performance, ‘if-then’ rewards tend to result in:
- Reduced intrinsic motivation
- Diminished creativity and performance
- Increased cheating, shortcuts and unethical behaviour
- Addictive tendencies that over-ride quality work
- Short term thinking that cna sabotage a business’ long term interests
Briefly reflecting on your own career you can probably recall feeling somewhat patronised at the arbitrary nature of a manager’s feedback or a company award, particularly if it is not an authentic extension of a company culture that genuinely cares for staff wellbeing.
You can also probably easily imagine a scenario where a sales representative has a commission to sell a product. They will go to great lengths to convince anyone and everyone that the product meets their needs. Sales go up, commission is paid and management is happy reviewing the next quarterly report.
Fast-forward a year and you probably have a suite of low value or unimpressed clients who have heavily invested in a product they are quickly learning doesn’t really meet their needs. They now don’t trust your sales representative enough to buy from your business again. Staff motivation is low, attrition is high, sales go down and management are not happy. Rarely though, is this attributed to a flawed system of incentivising staff.
That’s not to say that remuneration, recognition and rewards are unimportant. They just need to be provided with authenticity and with a thorough understanding of how human motivation really works.
In the next post we explain Daniel Pink’s three key elements of human motivation along with his practical guide to how the elements of human motivation can be applied to your business.
NAB ‘Rethink Success’ Part 1
Daniel Pink ‘Drive’