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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

True or False: Reward Systems Motivate People to Perform

Do performance assessment tools boost your motivation? Say, as much as money or other incentives such as promotions?

Or are you a self-starter who shuns external motivators in favor of the zest you get simply from doing a job you care about?

A recent article in a workforce e-zine raised this question in response to an HR director’s inquiry about “manipulation for a good cause.” The HR director wrote, “We aren’t trying to frighten people but we are interested in enhancing overall performance by giving people non-monetary incentives to go the extra mile.”

The author of the response, David Peck, said that while performance assessment system profiles could be used to help select and develop employees, they’re not ideal tools for boosting motivation. In fact, forget about these tools entirely for motivational purposes, and instead hold up a mirror to your firm’s leadership and its hiring and retention practices.

Peck suggested asking the following questions when motivation is low:
  1. Are leaders inadvertently doing things that hinder motivation?

  2. What are your firm’s standards for hiring and performance when it comes to self-motivation? Are you hiring or hanging on to slackers?
Peck notes an interesting, perhaps counter-intuitive, finding about the connection between rewards and high-performing companies. This finding surfaced as a result of a study by Jim Collins, the author of From Good to Great. Collins found that companies that do consistently well over time give no thought to how to motivate their people—because they only hire and retain people who are self-motivated in the first place.

What do you think? Is using external motivation systems a good thing, or is it simply treating people like rats in a maze?


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