Behavioural scientists agree for some time that external rewards only motivate up to a certain point and then become de-motivational or insignificant in terms of contribution. In most organisations the leveraged factor is still pay with bonuses etc whilst science has proven that as soon as the minimum level of security is reached, money as a motivator ceases to have a significant effect on productivity. To put it in Maslow’s pyramid of needs terms, once your basic needs for food, shelter and security are met, then the money aspect will become the vehicle to go after that sense of belonging, love, in pursuit of knowledge and experience.
Daniel Pink in his Ted talk and book ‘Drive’ explains that in fact the intrinsic motivators of autonomy, mastery and purpose are much more powerful than the traditional carrot and stick approach in business. Yet in my view it wouldn’t be that hard to achieve in a work setting, it would mean creating a world of business where employees can make more choices.
I worked for an organisation early in my career, where I had full control over what I put into my benefits package, which at the time a good 10+ years ago was a novelty. I could chose to opt in or out of pension, gym, parking places, newspapers, lunch vouchers, travel subsidy, etc which really made me look into each of them and I chose what mattered to me at the time, which ended up all being fun related. I believe this can be stretched further to letting workers opt into projects as opposed to simply be assigned work. In my experience the top down approach is only effective in a crisis situation where someone clearly needs to take the lead, but in day-to-day regular situations let people decided what they want to contribute to and also ask them to help with input on priorities. This kind of approach to work is described well in the book “Maverick” by Ricardo Semler, which turned around a fledgling organisation into a thriving group of businesses.
In my video I discuss my participation in marathons and each time I took part, I took the decision and observed my right for autonomy, it did take a whole lot of training and dedication to complete a full 26,2 miles or 42km. I always ran my marathons for charity, which gave it a purpose and made the training easier to stick with, because it was for more than just me, it was my contribution to a cause. The crossing the line for me is the most addictive part of those long races, because it means you have mastered the distance and reached that success buzz, adrenaline rush and general happy feeling of fulfilment.