SEATTLE POST INTELLIGENCER: Motivating Employees in the 21st CenturyApril 5, 2010 by Shannon

April 5th 2010.

Carrot-on-stick-2Forget all the things you may currently believe about motivating employees. Cash incentives to stimulate productivity may work in the short term, but are ultimately not sustainable. Threats are also short lived because employee resentment brings about ill will and this is counterproductive in the long run.

Such carrot and stick approaches for improving performance simply are no longer effective and it’s time organizations move to a more radical approach.

In Daniel Pink’s insightful book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” he explores the question of what motivates people to do innovative work. Based on more than thirty years of research in behavioral science, he provides compelling evidence showing that monetary rewards can actually hinder creativity.

And as Pink relates in his speech at the TED Conference, when it comes to motivation, there is a huge gap between what science knows and what companies do.

Today, many companies more closely track knowledge workers hours at their desks rather than results produced. And, as I wrote about in a previous post, Results Only Work Environment or ROWE is one way to change this mentality.

Author Pink convincingly argues that once our basic need for financial stability is taken care of, the desire for intrinsic motivation kicks in. Intrinsic motivation is founded upon personal rewards (individual interest or love) rather than extrinsic motivation (money). In fact, many scientific studies have demonstrated that people actually become less motivated when money is tied to doing something we are already drawn to doing. It actually devalues it for us!

Further, Pink suggests it is necessary for both employees and employers to break free of this old “if-then” paradigm and replace it with “now-that” instead. Rather than hold out some reward or punishment in order to accomplish a goal, there should be an opportunity to tap into an employee’s own individual interest in meeting the goal.

“If tangible rewards are given unexpectedly to people after they have finished a task, the rewards are less likely to be detrimental to intrinsic motivation,” said Edward L. Deci, the University of Rochester psychology professor and author of “Intrinsic Motivation.”

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By Mark Craemer