Departments - May/June 2013

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Change Your Approach
Motivation Incentives Need Four Core Elements

By Deborah L. Vence

What drives you to feel motivated?

Is it a high-tech gadget, a piece of jewelry or maybe a gift card to dine at your favorite restaurant?

Certainly, motivators are unique to everyone.

But some industry experts contend that the majority of businesses today are missing the mark when it comes to motivating their employees, customers and business partners.

Offering rewards and recognition is supposed to inspire top-notch performance. But, it's not always that simple. When designed poorly, experts say, reward and recognition programs can create a sense of entitlement, alienate certain employees and, ultimately, decrease productivity.

That's why Maritz Motivation Solutions, together with The Maritz Institute, wants business leaders to rethink their approach to recognition, performance improvement and loyalty programs.

To improve the design of motivation initiatives, Maritz developed a framework involving four core elements that are necessary to create more engaging program experiences.

"Whether they're employees, channel partners or customers, people transform business. Progressive organizations realize people, the initiative participants, are more than simply a means to an end," said Michelle Pokorny, solution vice president, employee engagement and recognition for Maritz Motivation Solutions. "People are driven by multiple and often personal motivators. When an initiative engages people and helps them get what they want, the potential for benefit to both the business and the individual is dramatically increased."

Motivation initiatives that are built on a deeper understanding of how people perceive, feel and decide, and that leverage the four pillars or strategies of effective motivation design, will be the ones that truly connect and move those who are responsible for accomplishing an organization's business goals.

The four pillars are:

  • A head-turning attention strategy that keeps purpose, shared vision and goals top-of-mind.
  • An actionable goal commitment strategy that ensures the right goals are established and internalized, and that a commitment is made to their accomplishment.
  • An effective feedback strategy that conveys progress and maintains engagement.
  • A compelling rewards strategy that not only provides positive consequences for achievement, but also adds meaning and social value to the participation experience.

For the first element, "a head-turning strategy," Pokorny explained, "In business today, organizations and even motivation solution providers too often assume people will be interested in, care about, pay attention to and be influenced to act on motivation initiatives. What we know from science and practice is that attention is literally a scarce resource."

So, "We first have to earn, and then work to keep the attention of those we invite to participate in a motivation initiative. It is, therefore, really important to have a deep understanding of how the brain processes and retains information in order to develop more effective awareness, attention and communication tactics."

But for such initiatives to be successful in getting and keeping people's attention, participants should be emotionally connected to the bigger purpose and impact, "express how the initiative is connected to organizational vision and explain how it will deliver personal, as well as organizational, benefits. There are several key ways to help accomplish this and optimize attention."