What Motivates Employees: Personal Drive or Incentives?
This essay analyzes the similarities and differences between incentives and motivation. Various incentive programs are discussed such as employee stock ownership programs, profit-sharing, gain sharing, and the various types of recognition. We conclude with a focus on the guidelines of a reward program, and overall employee morale.
Much effort goes into the planning and implementation of effective incentive programs to shape and encourage new employee behaviors. Little is done, however, to help make those new behaviors become permanent in the workplace. In many cases, shortly after awards are distributed to employees, the focus on desired behaviors such as increased sales, customer service or employee suggestions is greatly diminished. Often diminished with it are the desired results these programs promoted. It is imperative that companies teach managers how to create satisfied employees as well as implement programs that give employees and incentive to want to do well at work. Companies need to learn how to create a healthy balance between those things that affect job satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Hygiene factors, such as pay and policies affect job dissatisfaction, while motivator factors, such as recognition and responsibility affect job satisfaction. Without balance between these two factors, employees will either be dissatisfied or get no satisfaction from their jobs. There are many ways companies can use incentives to motivate employees, and several will be examined and compared to one another. Incentives or Motivation?
In order to motivate employees through the use of incentives, it is important for managers to gain a clear understanding of the two terms. The words are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are differences that must be understood. According to Robbins, “motivation is the willingness to do something and is conditioned by this action’s ability to satisfy some need for the individual.” He also goes on to say “people who are motivated exert a greater effort to perform than those who are not motivated” (Robbins 2003). Gorelick asserts that in the business world, incentives are rewards for some extraordinary accomplishment (Gorelick 2005). Another definition states an incentive is “something, such as the fear of punishment or the expectation of reward that induces action or motivates effort” (www.dictionary.com). Most companies use incentives in the form of rewards rather than the fear of punishment, but using them for the latter would not necessarily be surprising. So, it can be said that incentive and motivation are directly related to one another. That is not to say that motivation cannot occur without an incentive, but most of the time in the workplace there is some incentive or driving force causing employees to strive to do their best whether it be for hopes of a future promotion, a profit-sharing check at the end of the year (which is directly related to the company, hence individual performance), a reward for a good idea, stock options, or a simple thank you. Though many companies use incentives, they are not always carried out effectively. Gorelick believes that there are numerous guidelines that must be followed in order to use an incentive effectively. It must be: fair, directly related to the company’s strategy, given to the employee as soon as possible after the act or performance that earned the reward, thoughtful and appropriate given the performance, perceived as rightfully earned, and memorable (Gorelick 2005). What can managers and organizations do to perpetuate desired behaviors after an incentive program has concluded? Well, there are several motivational theories that managers can study and practice. Reinforcement theory tells us that after new behavior has been established, it can best...