Rewards Come Third

Stories of well-intended rewards that inadvertently backfire are legion.

The primary cause of most of these debacles is that management tries to influence behaviors by using rewards as their first motivational strategy.

In actual practice, rewards must come third in the effort to influence behavior.

The order for influencing behavior is:

#1 Ensure that the responsibilities of a position connect to the intrinsic rewards that people seek by creating a “line of sight” from the job to the social good that it provides to customers or to others in the company.

#2 Create the management support to reinforce the vital behaviors and responsibilities of a position that deliver that social good.

#3 Choose the extrinsic rewards to motivate behavior.

HR POINTER: Don’t use incentives to compensate for management’s failure to engage people on a personal and social level.

Research has shown that rewarding people for activities that they already find enjoyable will backfire if those rewards are taken away at some point.  The cost controls put in place by companies as they responded to the Great Recession gave us an opportunity to view this first hand.

For an overview of our approach to non-monetary and monetary recognition, click on the link below:

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