The recent CIPD report on the neuroscience of reward makes for some interesting reading, if only to reinforce some of our perceived notions about reward: e.g. we tend to overvalue our own contribution and undervalue what is given to us, especially deferred or additional benefits. There are also some interesting notions about incentives (especially bonuses) and whether they can ‘crowd out’ an intrinsic motivation.
In many ways, no great surprises in the report. A lot of this makes sense. What the report doesn’t address is how organisations can reward talent right now.
We currently live in a world of low inflation, low interest rates and low oil prices. Yet we have (apparently) the highest level of employment on record and a growing economy. So employers have a quandary – wages aren’t rising (enough for employees), yet competition for talent is. How do you keep and attract key skills?
In essence, employers don’t have a great deal of room for maneouvre. They can’t radically increase cost base. Bonuses and other financial incentives may not always have the immediate or motivating effect that we want them to – and they can lead to behavourial issues.
So what’s left in the armoury of an organisation?
How about recognition?
Typically recognition has focused on straightforward instruments such as gift vouchers, certificates, awards and cash. According to a KPMG report, even such straightforward measures as these can have very impressive results – for example, employees who see their colleagues recognised for specific actions/behaviours will most likely be motivated to copy the behaviours recognised.
The CIPD goes a stage further to look at gamification, as ‘a way of encouraging and eliciting many of the intended behaviours of traditional (cash) rewards such as high motivation and engagement’. The report seems to view such achievement-based incentives as positive, although if the tasks are too easy or require minimal effort, it could possibly lead to the overconfidence that is associated with recklessness!
In particular, the report suggests that such recognition programmes can highlight the value of different benefits that are often undervalued by employees. Equally, it can help to build confidence – because you get rewarded for a fairly minimal effort. Of course, there’s a word of caution here that not everyone is motivated in the same way.
We’ve seen some of our clients commit to what you might term ‘gasified’ rewards – especially points related to performance. However, like any programme, the key is sustaining interest and involvement over the longer term – and working with managers and colleagues to make a programme like this relevant and inspiring.
So what can you start to do now?
Leader Recognition – one of the most powerful tools for any business is for leaders to recognise teams or individuals for their efforts.
Awards – we shouldn’t underestimate awards, and especially where colleagues nominate others.
Segmentation – absolutely critical. Not everyone wants to go for a drink or a day of paint balling. Think how you recognise and motivate individuals and teams.
Stories – we’ve seen how storytelling can really help to recognise individual and team contributions.
Colleague rewards – one of our clients has a scheme where a colleague can give a gift to another colleague to thank them for a particular contribution.
Thank you – how many of us really do thank our colleagues for the work they do. And it doesn’t cost us anything!