Some Employee Rewards Do NOT Stimulate Better Behavior

Employee Rewards Do NOT Stimulate Better Behavior

If you have ever led a group of people, you know some employee rewards do NOT stimulate better behavior.

And recent research by the Harvard Business School and Washington University agrees that rewards do not always produce the desired behavior change.  The study at a commercial laundry company showed that, instead of increasing productivity by offering gift card drawings for those employees with perfect attendance for the month, productivity decreased significantly. What went wrong?

Analysis found that management had made several mistakes that produced unexpected, negative consequences.  Mistakes that you should be aware of before you try to create a rewards and recognition program to help get the most out of your employees.

  • Employees learned how to game the system. The possibility of a reward did not necessarily improve their work…it only improved them showing up. And when employees were no longer eligible for the reward, they were tardy or absent as before.  Savvy talent management leaders expect their employees to “game the system.”  In fact, if your rewards and consequences for performance are aligned with your corporate strategy and organizational culture, you want your employees to do whatever it takes to achieve their targets in a way that aligns with your corporate values.  In the laundry example, the root cause of poor performance was incorrectly identified as having a correlation to attendance.  Make sure your incentives are based upon the true behavior you want to change.
  • The gift card was a disincentive to those employees who had been working hard and coming to work regularly and on time. To them, the offer did not acknowledge what they had been doing right all along.  Too many leaders mistakenly invest too much time and energy in their under-performers.  Smart leaders know potent rewards are fair, proportionate and consistent and that the greatest share of the rewards should be distributed to the top performers.

The moral?

Remember that some employee rewards do NOT stimulate better behavior.

Make sure that your employee engagement training and reward and recognition systems offer a reward that is aligned with your desired behaviors, valued by all your employees, and perceived as proportionate.

To learn more about avoiding employee rewards do NOT stimulate better behavior and how to create a high performance culture instead, download Do you Have a High Performance Culture to Drive Your Strategy Forward?

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