Spending time trying to identify exactly what motivates your employees, and then finding meaningful ways to do those things might not necessarily be the easiest strategy, but it is one that is consistently more successful than any form of monetary incentive. While we all love some extra money, why do organizations continue to spend countless dollars trying to motivate and engage their staff with monetary incentives if we know they don't work?
Here are just a few of the reasons why using cash incentives just doesn't work:
1. All people are already motivated -- by something. You can't force someone to be motivated. Sure, you can threaten them or offer incentives, but then what? Do you keep threatening and incenting? At some point, you have to make good on the threats or provide additional incentives, and even at their best, these two strategies only work 20 to 25 percent of the time.
2. You cannot motivate people with a single strategy. All you can do is provide them with an environment where you can tap into what already motivates them. Is it praise, recognition, serving a greater purpose, becoming a subject matter expert or something entirely different? A motivator will not motivate if it isn't important to the individual. You need to identify those exact motivators and craft your strategy around them.
3. Money can't buy engagement. It's estimated that only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged at work. Employee engagement comes from feeling valued and appreciated, knowing your opinion matters, and being clear on what contribution you make to the overall success of the organization. Driving employee engagement is most critical at the immediate supervisor level because an employee's relationship with his or her supervisor dictates job satisfaction more than any other factor.
4. Money might not be able to make better leaders, but leadership development definitely can. If the employee-manager relationship is so critical to an employee's success, why aren't more organizations investing in leadership development? Investing in the right leadership development program for your managers and high potentials can provide a significantly higher return on investment.
5. Common sense isn't always common practice. Let's face it, it's not rocket science. If demonstrating appreciation, developing your team members' growth and development, and ensuring employees are clear about their roles and responsibilities improves productivity, morale, and engagement, why aren't we spending more time and money doing that? Because sometimes it's just easier to give $25. Creating a truly motivational climate takes time, effort, and energy. Knowing it works doesn't translate into taking the time to make it happen. It has to be a deliberate effort.
I'm not suggesting that money should never be used as a motivator. Some people do thrive on bonuses and incentives -- but not everyone does. The next time you have a one-on-one conversation with your employees, ask them what really motivates them. Or at the very least, ask them what doesn't motivate them, and whatever it is, stop doing it.
Anne Grady is an author, corporate leadership consultant and expert in personal and organizational transformation. She shares the life lessons she has learned in her new book, 52 Strategies for Life, Love and Work.