Building a Better Program

Learn how to boost employee motivation—and business results!

By Sandra Eagle

A new research paper by The Maritz Institute says a deeper understanding of human behaviours should be the basis of motivational program design. Entitled Four Pillars of Motivation Initiatives, the premise underscores complex individual reasons that drive choices, actions and behaviours of employees. The four pillars include attention, goal-commitment, progress feedback and rewards. Co-author of the study, Russ Frey, marketing director at The Maritz Institute, provides additional insight.

Why is it important to understand human behaviour in developing a motivational program? While we'd like to believe that the way we behave is mostly rational and always in our own self-interest, the truth is, both emotions and social context play huge roles in how we behave—whether we're fully aware of them or not. It's impor­tant that motivational program experiences and external moti­vators like rewards not only reinforce desired behaviours but also align with mission, purpose, values and what participants want for themselves.

Would you see this type of program as a boost to employee retention?
Absolutely. When you design a program that creates mutual benefit–for your business and for the people who make it successful—you're add­ing another reason for people to view their experience with your company or your brand as rewarding. Recognition pro­grams, when implemented with consistency over time, can be a particularly power­ful way to engage employ­ees. For example, a Maritz poll conducted in 2012 showed that when people are completely sat­isfied with reward and recognition programs, they are five to six times more engaged with their work overall. Another 2012 study, this one done by the Society of Human Resource Management, indicated that when strategic recognition programs are in place, companies could enjoy up to 51 per cent greater retention.

How do you get people motivated to change their "old paradigms?"
That's the big question, right? I'd say first you have to introduce choices that are better than the status quo. Give people a reason to change that benefits them and your business, in equal meas­ure, and that reflect the purpose and values of your organization. Have trusted leaders explain why the new way is important. Provide a fair and accessible path to success. Ask people to visualize what it will be like when they achieve their goals and have them candidly assess what stands in the way. Then provide whatever resources you can to help them get there, and reward the small steps that will get them started. Provide frequent encouragement and mix in messages that break through "auto­pilot" thinking. Communicate progress regularly using visuals that are easily understood. Finally, provide a choice of rewards that can create a positive and specific memory that people will associate with your business—possessions or symbols that carry meaning because they were chosen and earned or a shared experience like a group travel award.

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