It’s common for me to have conversations about how to motivate people to accept change. For those of us who are early adopters, it’s not a problem; we kinda like doing something new.

But, from those whose favorite radio station isWII-FM*, I hear this song:

“This new process looks harder, not easier. In fact, you’re making everyone do the same thing, whether it’s the way they personally prefer to do it or not. So to make up for that, you have to incentivize us, by givingus _____ (free lunch, time off, a book, gift card) sowe will want to do the change, since we don’t get any personal reward out of making amore value-added or more reliable process.”

I haven’t usually agreed with this statement, as presented, for a number of reasons. Buthave any of you tried to motivate through extrinsic rewards, such as gifts, rather than working through intrinsic motivators, such as pride at a job well done? Are there some situations where it’s not only acceptable, but almost required to provide this kind of external incentive? Or should we never consider using these types of motivators?

And, are people who want to be “motivated” in this way, just poor employees whoshould be moved into a different role? Or sent off to the Employee Assistance Program for attitude adjustment?

In the few times I have used gift cards or other small tokens, to say “thanks for your effort,” I’ve had mixed results. Some people are very appreciative while others ask, “Is that all I’m worth?”

So I’d like to ask for your experiences – have you tried using these types of motivators or incentives, and has it worked? It would be great to get some guidance on this.

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*WII-FM stands for, “What’s In It For Me?”

**And I know that “incentivize” is not really a real word, yet somehow I am hearing it more and more often!!!

Comments 3

  1. michael cardus

    Uhh, tough question. Using external motivators have a short team life cycle. This carrot process works for motivating people to try new things.
    The challenge that you are running into is the idea of What is in it for me. So the question really is, how are you articulating the benefits of new processes to the them, in a way that will benefit them?
    Currently I am consulting with an organization where overtime is the norm. The leadership is focused on lowering the amount of overtime and therefore being able to increase the base pay. Although many people who are making overtime $$ are making much more than the increase in base pay. So wifm is they lose $$.
    To transition this change I asked leadership to determine how working less hours will benefit the staff. They came up with some things (i.e. less accidents, greater mental health, improved equity of staffing)
    You must explain to the team exactly what is the benefit to them from the change. If you cannot articulate the benefit than the change is not going to happen.

  2. Fang Zhou

    The answer depends on what you want as a result, both short- and long-term.

    If you want to meet the numbers in the short-term, go ahead and give people the carrots. But don’t expect sustained results when the incentive is gone.

    If you want to change the culture (values and purpose, and how we achieve it), you have to reward people for the right behavoir, not just the numbers.

    When introducing changes, I often ask "does the change help people (who want to improve what we do) perform better?" How do we know? Go to the frontline, ask them, test it out with them, and use data to support our decisions. If we don’t have the leadership to listen to the people who know the best, share our goals, and care about our values and our customers, the change management problem lies in us. If the change doesn’t help them do better, what is the change for? What is the motivation?

    Change managemet is about People Leading the Change. Empower the people who share our values and they will lead the change. For those who don’t, no carrot is big enough.

  3. Idagob

    I just started with introduction to lean and six sigma.I have some leadership skills.But I want to share something with you.I grown up in so called communistic country.It was so called self managing socialism and only system as such in the world.It was in ex Yugoslavia.When we started to go to school we got initiated as a Pionir (Pioneer ) ,not a pupil or a student.This was our kiddies Mantra….
    P- Posten(Honest)
    I- Iskren(Sincere)
    O- Odvazan(Courageous)
    N- Napredan(Progressive)
    I- Istrajan(Persevering)
    R- Radin(Diligent)
    This was programmed into us from age 6.This is how communist where grooming their people into a self managing economical culture.And this values still have deep impact(of course!) on me today.When these are with you, you don’t necessary need a carrot unless you are truly a donkey.

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