Motivating employee performance without financial incentives
In case you don’t already know this, financial incentives are the least effective motivators of desired employee behavior… especially for creating loyalty. That’s really good news at a time when money is tight and companies are desperately trying to keep good employees. Here are some facts about how to better motivate employees that could really help right now…
Financial incentives are the best motivator for behavior you want the least, such as self-serving attitudes, destructive greed, and internal competition that demotivates other employees. If you want an employee who has low loyalty, makes other employees distrust each other (and the company), and will try to leverage you continually for more money for doing less work, then financial incentives are great. The truth is that employees who work for you despite a lack of special financial incentives that are designed to motivate specific behavior are more loyal, more focused upon the good of the company overall, and more supportive of other employees. In short, they are great team players… something that almost every company says they want to hire.
So, what motivates the type of employee you want better than money? Sadly, they are the very things that most companies are loath to give: trust, empowerment, and appreciation.
Ask almost any corporate employee what they hate the most about their job (and would desperately like to change jobs to get), and they will most often answer with things like, “trust, personal empowerment, and appreciation for work well done.” Interestingly, despite this overwhelming unmet need, if asked what they want the most, they will most often answer, “more money.”
Why the disconnect between what they say they want and what they would change jobs to get? It’s something I have seen in market research thousands of times. People will say they want something that is far different from what they would give almost anything to get, because they don’t think they can get it or they don’t believe the person asking would give it to them. So they answer with something they believe the questioner will understand and accept.
As an employer, I have always been amazed to discover that the employees that have provided the lowest return on investment have typically been those demanding the most money and the most financial incentives for things that will grow the company. The best employees have typically been ones who want a chance to prove themselves and who are less concerned about short-term financial incentives than long-term growth potential.
My advice: Forget the financial incentives except as “appreciation.” Focus upon making employees feel more trusted by including top performing ones in strategic planning and other long-range planning activities or problem-solving. Invest in employees who show potential or who demonstrate the “right” attitudes” with training and by giving them special opportunities to prove themselves.
You will find that everyone on your team is more motivated and more more focused upon the things you really need from employees.
If you have examples of this at work in your company, I would love to hear about them. It’s about time that corporate managers realize that negative motivation and weak financial incentives won’t work, but showing more respect, trust, and appreciation to employees will.
Wes Ball is the author of The Alpha Factor. Although he spent the last 20+ years growing companies ranging from the Fortune 100 to small local companies, he is focusing almost exclusively upon medium-sized businesses who he believes have the most potential to rejuvenate our economy and to become tomorrow’s market leaders. You can reach Wes at 717.799.3395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.