A Little Secret to Increase Productivity

Rewards Can Cost A Lot, But Be Valued Little

“Rewards” generally have a cost, so if you have a strong, rewards-based system of reinforcement, it has the potential to be expensive. In other words, you almost have to “buy” or “bribe people for” the desirable behavior.

Ironically enough, while that may be seen as a bad outcome from your point of view, it is almost invariably seen as a poor arrangement from the point of view of the “bribe” too! Continuing the irony: Bribes can lose their effectiveness (they have to be bigger and bigger to work) while recognition just seems to keep going and going.

Recognition, on the other hand – acknowledgement, praise, gratitude, icons such as trophies and awards – are usually low or no-cost items, and yet uplift and honor both parties.

So, if recognition has a low cost, but a high perceived value, what could you do to apply this principle in your business to uplift and empower people, while shaping their behavior to provide better outcomes?

Three Parts Recognition To One Part Reward Is The Best Glue

Experience has taught us that pure recognition can look a bit thin after a while, and consistent, long-term pure reward systems just “rot” and cease to work. So what is the ideal balance?

Start with providing three parts recognition to tone part reward. Make it different types of recognition also: public praise, an award, promotion, etc., and, where possible, keep the reward non-monetary. You’d be surprised how little value may be placed on a $100 reward, and just how much value may be placed on two Gold First Class Theater Tickets, or a meal for two (of the same or even lesser value).

An example: A winning real estate sales team were “rewarded” with a trip away together for two years and, then in the third year, when the reward was swapped to a cash equivalent, the entire team under-performed. They were demotivated by being offered money in place of a fun holiday together.

So, if you were to design a “recognition-and-reward system” that fitted your operations, what would it consist of?

People Can Learn To Expect A Better Outcome

“Positive people produce more consistent and more positive results.” Not likely to be a surprise for anyone in that statement – but not everyone who joins your team in necessarily going to come in with a positive orientation (though we hope this would be among your selection criteria).

One of the more rewarding tasks of any leader is to lead their team members to dream a better outcome, and to then to move them to achieving that dream.

If you take people to achieve in a team, things that they believed were beyond them individually, they will do practically anything to maintain or repeat the feeling they derive from that achievement.

So what can you do to encourage your team to “dream big,” and then to Coach them to achieve that dream? What is that likely to do for morale (yours and theirs).

Good Feelings Are Rewards

When you make someone feel good about themselves, and about what they are achieving – or even what they are “working towards” – you are already creating a form of reward that we all value. We tend to come back to situations that give us that type of feeling; tend to do the things that will invoke them again.

On the flip side, bad feelings about failure or lack of progress or frustration or lack of appreciation, are “punishment” (or at least “pain”), and we naturally tend to avoid situations, activities and people that give rise to them. Consider the cost to productivity and morale of a toxic workplace.

We can extend this one a little further and look at the fact that consciously creating a warm, nurturing, physically-and-emotionally safe workplace will be seen (by the good folks, at least) as a form of on-going reward that you create for them, and they’ll tend to be uplifted by it.

So, how could you employ this particular insight in your work situation? And what is likely to be the response if you did?

Sometimes, we make things too complicated and forget that in the end what we all want is to be appreciated and feel good about who we are. Apply the KISS principle and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

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