By erikanollwebb on Sep 07, 2012
Picking up where we left off, let's summarize. People have both intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, and whether reward works depends a bit on what you are rewarding. Rewards don't decreased intrinsic motivation provided you know what you are getting and why, and when you reward high performance. But as anyone who has watched the great animation of Dan Pink's TED talk knows, even that doesn't tell the whole story. Although people may not be less intrinsically motivated by rewards, the impact of rewards on actual performance is a really odd questions. Larger rewards don't necessarily lead to better performance and in fact, some times lead to worse performance. Pink argues that people are driven and engaged when they have autonomy, mastery and purpose. If they can self-direct and can be good at what they do and have a sense of purpose for what they are doing, they show the highest engagement. (Personally, I would add progress to the list. My experience is that if you have autonomy, mastery and a sense of purpose but don't get a feeling that you are making any progress day to day, your level of engagement will drop rapidly.)
Let me give you an example. I've worked on some customer relationship management (CRM) tools over the years and done user research with sales people to try and understand their world. And there's a funny thing about sales tools in CRM. Sometimes what the company wants a sales person to do is at odds with what a sales person thinks is useful to them. For example, companies would like to know who a sales person talked to at the company and the person level. They'd like to know what they talked about, when, and whether the deals closed. Those metrics would help you build a better sales force and understand what works and what does not. But sales people see that as busy work that doesn't add any value to their ability to sell. So you have a sales person who has a lot of autonomy, they like to do things that improve their ability to sell and they usually feel a sense of purpose--the group is trying to make a quota! That quota will help the company succeed! But then you have tasks that they don't think fit into that equation. The company would like to know more about what makes them successful and get metrics on what they do and frankly, have a record of what they do in case they leave, but the sales person thinks it's a waste of time to put all that information into a sales application.
They have drive, just not for all the things the company would like.
You could punish them for not entering the information, or you could try to reward them for doing it, but you still have an imperfect model of engagement. Ideally, you'd like them to want to do it. If they want to do it, if they are motivated to do it, then the company wins. If *something* about it is rewarding to them, then they are more engaged and more likely to do it. So the question becomes, how do you create that interest to do something?