Motivation is a key consideration when trying to get a group, team or individual to change. What motivates one person may not motivate another. There's many ways to motivate. One way is to offer an incentive. The challenge is to match the changing situation to an incentive that will drive the desired actions. An experience at one of my clients demonstrates how incentives matter.
This client was a distributor with seven independently run warehouses. The company did not act like a cohesive unit which the CEO of the company was trying to change. He knew that some warehouses were more effective and efficient than others. He needed the manager of each warehouse to work with his peers to drive consistent, efficient and effective processes across all the warehouses. Two months into the project, it was clear that the managers were not inclined to work together towards company wide goals.
They were still solely focused on their warehouse's individual performance. We met with the head of HR to talk about the challenge of getting the managers motivated to work together and to change some of their focus to the company wide objectives. We asked a lot of questions, trying to understand the current evaluation and reward system, trying to figure out how we might change it. After an hour, the HR VP said, "Well, there is this discretionary bonus pool that the company CEO uses each year."
Our heads snapped up. Did he just say what we thought he said? It was like uncovering unknown treasure. Unbelievably, there were no clear expectations related to this discretionary bonus money. In fact, the HR VP said the impression was that the CEO gave it to whichever managers he seemed to like most that year, parceling it out unevenly amongst the group. And the managers acted accordingly. They spent their effort trying to play golf with the CEO. They invited the CEO and his wife to dinner. They behaved in accordance with the tacit expectations related to the discretionary bonus.
"Do you think we can link achieving the company business objectives to the bonus pool?" we asked hopefully. "I'll look into it", said the HR VP and that was the end of the meeting.
Fast forward six months later. The bonus pool had been linked to meeting company wide objectives such as creating consistent processes. The changes and expectations had been communicated early to the managers and the managers changed their behavior accordingly. Consistent processes were being created and championed.
Money is great but incentives aren't just about the money. It's also about the message the incentive sends. In this case, linking the bonus to company wide goals did two things 1) managers now had some personal motivation to make the company initiatives work 2) the CEO was sending a clear signal that the company wide objectives were a high priority that shouldn't be ignored.
Since you may not have some hidden pile of money (but don't forget to ask just in case!), spend time brainstorming about how to motivate people toward your change. You may be able to piggy back onto a current program or create something new. Find out what people care about.
People can be motivated by public recognition, extra days off, being able to wear jeans, contests, food, special assignments and promotions, just to name a few. When you have limited resources, you may need to be creative but the right motivational tactics help drive attitudes and behaviors in the right direction. Not only can incentives help drive the business towards success, they can be fun too.
The right incentives grab people's attention. Incentives are increasingly important with the information overload and constant change that is happening daily in the workplace. Don't forget to think about how to motivate people when you are trying to drive change.