Behavior Matters!

Harnessing the power of behavioral science to improve how organizations, leaders, and people work

Tag: Engagement (Page 1 of 3)

Why Graphics Matter – Part 1 (of 2)

Why Graphics Matter – Part 1 (of 2)

So far in our design series of blogs, we have touched upon the concept of applying behavioral science to graphic design, and how reducing cognitive load can increase understanding, reduce myopic focus and drive home the key points you want your audience to grasp.

To catch up, check them out here:

Be sure to follow us to stay informed!

Today we are going to dive deeper into the visual element and explore “why graphics matter.” We utilize the concepts we will lay out in our employee communications, but the value does not stop there. Whether you are in communications, marketing, advertising, or trying to engage employees through internal Communications, this will apply to you. So, sit back, relax, and absorb.

Graphics are fun, graphics are pretty (well some are, beauty is in the eye of the beholder), graphics make information less boring – but there is far more to graphics than one might expect. When properly used graphics:

(read more on cognitive load here)

People are visual, and we experience things through this medium. Let’s get into these benefits in a little more depth:

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Employee Engagement and the 4-Drive Model

Much of the work that I’ve done in the past has been on how the 4-Drive Model impacts employee motivation.  The research that we did as well as the work that we implemented, focused mostly on large scale initiatives / programs that helped to satisfy these different drives (sales incentives, contests, recognition programs, award trips, performance management systems, etc..).  Recently, I’ve been asked to develop some workshops, using the 4-Drive Model as the foundation, but that focus on helping managers better engage their employees – at a local level.

Putting these workshops together has been fascinating because it takes the 4-Drive Model to a much more specific place.  Working one-on-one with an employee to help them feel more engaged at work.  Even after 6 years of working with this model, I’ve identified a few new key pieces.

1. We all know that different people have different motivational profiles – but we’ve found that individuals motivational profiles can change very quickly (unlike someone’s personality profile – which changes little over time).  Motivation, we found, is very context dependent.  This is an important aspect when thinking about engagement.

2. Team environments within a larger organization are more important than any large scale initiative.  Again, this is not ground breaking, but it does go to how team cultures are created or destroyed.  One key piece that I’ve recognized, is that one bad-apple, can have an overly large negative effect on overall engagement of the team.  In the past, I would have suggested working with that person to help develop them and coach them to improve – now I recommend that managers get rid of them as quickly as possible once they are recognized.  It sounds harsh, but those individuals can poison the entire team to a point that makes it very hard to recover.

3. Most managers are too busy to focus on engagement.  They have a hard enough time getting all of the work done that they are tasked to do – much less spend time thinking about how they can or should engage their employees.  They often are so busy that they don’t stop to look around at what their employees are doing or saying.  It is important to help them focus a portion of their energy on understanding what makes their team tick.

4. Most managers have not developed the skills and knowledge needed to effectively engage their employees.  Some managers are naturally talented in this, like the sports phenom who at 18 possesses all skills necessary to be at the professional level.  Most managers are on the JV team (if they even make the team).  They need the coaching and time to develop their skills.  Engagement is not hard, it just takes time and effort.  

5. Probably the number one issue that managers have is that they don’t know what to focus on to increase engagement.  Is it purely recognition, is it collaboration, is it tying to the larger purpose, is it compensation?  This is where the 4-Drive Model really helps and can provide some guidance for managers and a way to understand their team.

Let me know your thoughts on this and any examples you’ve seen of good or poor management with regards to engagement.

Thank you!

Change is Hard – So What Did I Do About It?

Today I'm Motivated ToLast week I wrote about how I have not kept up on my own goal of writing a book on achieving goals (i.e., change).

Ironic?

Yes…very ironic.

As mentioned, over the past two years I’ve been researching how people change.  That research indicates that there are six major components that help people achieve purposeful change.

In reviewing my own lapsed change goal of writing five pages a week, I found that I had only leveraged two of those six components.  Doing the math, that means that I was not doing four of the six.  Those were:

1. Writing was not an emotionally driven goal – it was a rational goal

2. I had not established a habit around writing

3. I had not changed my environment to help facilitate my writing

4. I did not have social support network set up to help me

Last week I identified two of those six as easy fixes, one as moderately easy and one as very difficult.  Here is my work to date on those:

My easy fixes (weren’t so easy):

4.  Social support network.  In response to this, I talked to my wife and asked her to help me on this by holding me accountable.  She refused.

Yes, that’s right, she said, “no.” 

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Improving performance in uncertain times using non-cash incentives

Change creates an emotional response

Even in the best of times, companies experience different competitive and environmental factors that can lead to organizational change and thus employee uncertainty. In hard economic times, those changes occur at a much greater pace and employee uncertainty can be even greater.   Employee uncertainty creates a number of challenges for organizations as employees often feel anxious, disillusionment, disappointment, confusion, and even anger over their lack of control in an unknown situation.  This often leads to decreased employee motivation, focus and subsequent decreases in productivity and performance.

Companies can employ a number of different mechanisms to help recharge employee motivation in changing environments.  One key mechanism is the use of targeted incentives to help engage employees and focus them on improving productivity.  Because incentives can be structured in a number of different ways and use a variety of reward options, it is important to understand what aspects of incentives will drive the greatest return given the uncertainty and emotional response that is felt by employees during these organizational shifts.

Understanding the psychological response:

The emotional response of individuals to potential negative changes is theorized to go through a process similar to grief.  The Kubler-Ross Reaction to Change[i] cycle shows how employees typically flow through recognized stages when faced with change.

Kubler Ross Change

Initial denial is followed by resistance, then a period of self-doubt and worry, followed by a time of letting go, with acceptance of the change and exploration of options, and finally moving to new commitment and focus.  This is an emotionally charged process that requires time to respond to change.

Organizations need to be able to manage this process and move people through these stages as quickly as possible.  The engagement of the emotional elements of the brain is vital to being able to achieve this. During the high stress, denial and resistance stages, our brains do not process rational arguments as easily or readily as they usually do.  In order to gain a foothold in this emotional cauldron, incentives need to have an emotional hook.  Non-cash incentives achieve this hook through a variety of behavioral economic principles.  First, they provide hedonic luxury escape which is about being able to remove yourself from the current state and imagine yourself with a luxury item or good[ii].  Second, they activate different sectors of the brain associated with visualization (i.e., right hemisphere brain functions) versus the more rational sectors associated with transactions (i.e., money and left hemisphere brain functions)[iii].  Third, non-cash elements do not push employees into a calculative modality in which they equate effort with monetary amounts.  In stressful situations, this calculation is short-changed and often interpreted as “they are trying to bribe me.”  Non-cash awards are evaluated as a separate, non-financial component that is viewed in isolation and not in factors that are associated with other compensation factors.[iv]

Examples:

Many organizations have utilized non-cash incentives in periods of uncertainty and change.  The following are just a few examples of these incentives and the results that they generated.

Y2K Angst

A technology firm out of Des Moines, Iowa was experiencing high levels of turnover and angst with its software programmers because of the uncertainty surrounding Y2K and how their jobs were going to be negatively impacted.   A non-cash incentive program aimed at achieving specific Y2K milestones was implemented across the organization.  AwardperQs (a non-cash point system) were awarded to individuals and teams that achieved specific milestones.   This program provided clear focus and motivation for the software programmers and achieved in excess of 90% of employees engaged/ participating/hitting one or more milestones.

Sales Force Integration

A leading medical technology company was moving from a product-centered sales philosophy to a customer-centric team approach.  This involved a realignment and adjustment to the sales force that created significant uncertainty in the field about their jobs and roles.  A six-month incentive program was developed that rewarded people for sales that required integration of two or more product groups.  A fixed award pool created a sense of urgency and engagement in the incentive.  The client realized a return of more than 300:1 on this program.

Realignment

A pharmaceutical firm was going through a major realignment of territories and product allocation due to a large product soon to come off of patent.  Many sales representatives had new managers, new doctors and new products that they needed to work with.  A short-term team based award was put in place that offered teams the chance to earn from selected merchandise if they were in the top 20% of districts across the nation.  Quota achievement across the division came in above the stretch goal, even with the distraction of realignment.

Other Factors

Obviously there are other factors that influence how quickly organizations move their employees through angst to engagement in situations that are stressful or uncertain.  While this paper does not expand upon those, two key factors that relate to incentives include:

  • Incentives should be short-term to allow for readily available goal progress particularly when dealing with uncertainty.  By providing short-term incentives and tracking to that, individuals will achieve a sense of progression towards goal which increases the perception of certainty in the program.
  • Communication is key.  Incentives cannot be viewed of as a bribe or they will be summarily dismissed.  The tone and narrative of the communication needs to be set up to have the most positive impact and create a separate interaction with the incentives that sets it as different from the cause of the uncertainty.

 


[i] Kübler-Ross, E. (2005) On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss, Simon & Schuster Ltd.

[ii] Kivetz, R. (2010) Rewards Hierarchy and Hedonic Luxury, presentation at BIW Forum

[iii] Jeffrey, S., (2006) Cash or Hawaii: The benefits of tangible non-monetary incentives, dissertation

[iv] Jeffrey, S., (2008) The benefits of tangible non-monetary incentives, Incentive Research Foundation

Top 5 survival tips for small businesses – guest blog by Paul Schoening (3 of 3)

The following is the final blog of 3 posts from our guest blogger Paul Schoening, President of Plan C.  He is bringing a unique perspective on what it takes for a small business to survive.  In his first two posts (here and here) he talked about the difficulty of starting a business based on passion and how that passion is both good and bad.  He discussed how entrepreneurs need to look at building a sustainability plan and not a business plan.  In this blog are his final two tips.  Let us know what you think.  Enjoy!

4. Continually learn: I’ve mentioned education already but I need to stress how it’s important to stay ahead of the competition.   To do that, you need to carve out time to learn.  It doesn’t matter how you learn, but you must be constantly learning.  I’m not saying that you need to take classes – but you do need to keep up on things.

Read, attend conferences, sit through webinars, go to the library (I know – old fashioned but it works), find a mentor, network and learn more about your business than you think you will ever use.  Using the internet to learn is easier than ever – enter a topic in google and you have thousands of links to explore.  Subscribe to websites that help you learn and stay up on leading thought in your industry.  University sites offer a lot of free classes via the web (see here).  Apple even has iTunesU that you can get on your iPhone or iPad and learn while you are on the go.

When you are starting a business, finding time to learn can feel like you are taking away from other important aspects of the business – but it is key to long term survival. You’ll need to prioritize your time and make critical choices which will allow you to learn and grown your business at the same time…including how to more efficiently sweep the floors! Engaging your new employees through continuous learning is also a key factor in retaining the talent you need to succeed. Rick Osborn, president of the Association for Continuing Higher Education says, that’s a mistake.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Osborn. I understand that when businesses are looking to make cuts, these are the kinds of programs that are the first to go. In the short term, those kinds of cuts might work for a business. But, in the long run, you’re going to have to restore the cuts.”

Businesses that offer professional development often have a strong track record for employee retention. In fact, employees cite continuing education programs as the No. 2 reason they stay in their jobs, said Susan Porter Robinson of the Washington, D.C.-based American Council on Education.

Source; www.bizjournals.com December 7, 2009

5. Connect, connect, and connect some more: Get connected with people in your industry, other small business people, and anybody else that could potentially be of benefit to your business.  Do this so you can understand the challenges, opportunities and resources available to be successful.   Research by the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center indicated that the effects of networking and connecting with other people have a long term positive impact.  The research found that 9-months after a networking “mixer” event, participants rated the top five benefits as

  • Being networked professionally
  • Feeling energized by the interaction
  • Gained a business insight
  • Established a collaboration opportunity and
  • Had found professional inspiration

Source: Enhanced Professional Networking and its Impact on Personal Development and Business Success, 2006

While every social engagement is not a sales call, it can be a potential opportunity to talk about your business and what you do.  Join Linked-In groups, start a channel on You-Tube, expand your twitter accounts.   Utilize your network of friends, family and acquaintances.     Make the effort.  You never know where the next sale is going to come from.  Don’t leave anything on the table, this is your livelihood!

Let us know what you think – leave a comment below.  Join in the discussion!

Our Most Popular Team Building Programs

Here are the most popular team building programs from the last two years – lots of bonding and fun to be had with all of them!

our most popular team building activities

Repost: Expanding on Dan Pink – How to Drive Employee Motivation

Carrot - reaching for

[This article was first published in September of 2009]

It has been interesting how much attention has been paid to Dan Pink’s latest message on motivation that was presented at TED.  The number of tweets, blogs, and other messages about this have been huge.  We ourselves highlighted the speech here on this blog a couple of weeks ago (http://wp.me/pypb9-31 ).

What I find interesting and a little worrisome, is the idea that many are taking from Dan’s presentation that all incentives (or at least most) are bad.  I disagree 100% with that concept.   I would like to expand the conversation to explore why.

The debate about intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation has been going on for a long time.  The candle experiment presented by Pink was done in the 1950’s.  Deci & Ryan research from 1970’s and 1980’s suggested that extrinsic rewards can decrease intrinsic motivation.  Alfie Kohn wrote about how he thought extrinsic rewards were bad in “Punished by Rewards” in the 1990’s.   All of this research suggested a negative correlation between extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation.

However, that is not the only research out there!  Research based on both real life corporate performance data and academic experiments show a different side to this debate.

First, performance data from a number of sources points to an increase in performance when incentives are used.  Stajkovic and Luthans’ meta-analysis of 72 contingent based behavior programs found that money incentives increased performance by 23%, social recognition increased performance by 17%, and feedback increased performance by 10%.   BI, a performance improvement company, has shown increases of over 300% between a control group and an incentivized group in sales performance.

Those are hard numbers to ignore!

Also, Paul Hebert does a nice job of highlighting research by the International Society for Performance Improvement that indicate a 22% increase in performance for individual incentives and 44% for team based incentives – (see it here http://tiny.cc/nHfAj –  he also discusses some other arguments around Dan Pink’s message).

Second researchers have found that the way that incentives are structured has a significant impact on their performance as well as on the impact they have on intrinsic motivation.   Work by Eisenberger, Cameron and Pierce show that extrinsic rewards, if structured correctly, can actually increase intrinsic reward. They state, “The findings suggest that reward procedures requiring ill-defined or minimal performance convey task triviality, hereby decreasing intrinsic motivation. Reward procedures requiring specific high task performance convey a task’s personal or social significance, increasing intrinsic motivation.”  Specific to creativity, Eisenberger and Cameron “concluded that decremental effects of reward on intrinsic task interest occur under highly restricted, easily avoidable conditions and that positive effects of reward on generalized creativity are readily attainable by using procedures derived from behavior theory” [emphasis added].  Yet Dan Pink does not reference any of their work in his book (see here for some research articles that point to how extrinsic rewards can increase creativity: Eisenberger, Armeli, and Pretz, Eisenberger and Rhoades, and Eisenberger, Cameron and Pierce)

In our own work, we’ve seen that when individuals are given a choice in choosing levels of goals and subsequent rewards, they have an increased motivation to choose (and achieve) higher goals than what management would have given them.

That being said, Dan Pink has gotten the discussion flowing on this – which I think is very good.  He has also highlighted the fact that most organizations only see one lever to pull when trying to impact employee motivation – i.e. pay systems. As he points out, there are other aspects that influence employee’s motivation.  This is vital.  To improve performance, creativity, and accountability businesses need to look at more than just rewards!  I hope that this will help expand the use of other motivators!

Dan talks about Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose – these fit right into the Four Drive Model of Employee Motivation.  Autonomy and Mastery align with our Drive to Challenge and Comprehend, while purpose fit nicely with the Drive to Defend.  What Dan leaves out is the power that the Drive to Bond has on motivating employees.

Overall, I think the discussion that will result from Dan’s presentation is great, I just hope that it doesn’t get boiled down to the simple sound bite that “incentives are bad.”

UPDATE APRIL 1, 2011

Let’s start with the positive: Dan’s book has done very well and has helped focus people on the the need for looking beyond the pay system to help drive motivation throughout the business.  This is a very, very positive impact.

Now for the bad: the mantra that “incentives are bad” has been one of the larger themes to arise from the success of his book.  This is not a positive impact.   It has led to a number of non-experts jumping on the bandwagon expounding their personal belief that all pay-for-performance measures should be gotten rid of.  That incentives themselves are bad.  And that people will be 100% fully motivated if we can just figure out how to make jobs more autonomous, provide mastery and have a purpose.  Of course, this doesn’t really account for a lot of what really happens in the world as we know it.

Moving forward, I would like to propose that the discussion around this topic is good – as long as we look at all the research and at how incentives should / should not be used.  We need to look at all the tools in our tool belt – that includes things such as Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose – but also includes other things like rewards.

Let me know your thoughts – click on the comment section below!

Kurt

There is always that one client who drives you NUTS…

This is a true story of what happened to me and one client.Driving me nuts

It began in August.  I was contracted to conduct an analysis for a company that will remain unnamed.  The analysis looked at some specific aspects around a new product launch and involved interviewing a number of executives and sales people from across the organization.  In all I did over 40 hours of interviews.  I spent twice that amount of time analyzing the interview responses, finding patterns and insights that applied to their specific situation, assessing linkages and developing insights.

I created a comprehensive report that included an executive summary, detailed findings, recommendations for success, and a large section with selected verbatim comments from the interviews.

I thought it was pretty good.  We uncovered a lot of useful information regarding the launch process,  the sales force readiness, and the work that needed to happen leading up to the launch that could really help the company be more successful.  We had taken the pulse of the organization and reported it back in a clear and informative manner.

I’m not just tooting my own horn – the client was very pleased with the content and the findings also.  No really he was. In fact, he stated in an e-mail, “I’m very happy with the content and findings and I’m glad I used your services…”

Great.  Well done.  End of story – right?

Not so fast… you knew something else was coming….

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A New Motivational Model Using the 4-Drives: Upcoming in 2011

Ok, this is a little bit of a teaser…we are in the process of doing a major overhaul of how we look at the 4-Drive Model.  We’ve talked about the need to update this model before (see here and here).  We are underway in getting that developed and should be launching it the first quarter of 2011.

Here is a sneak peak…the four main motivations as we’ve defined them are now renamed and constitute different elements:

1.  Personal Motivation- focus on the intrinsic motivators that we have and encompasses the Drive to Challenge & Comprehend

2. Reward Motivation- focus is on the extrinsic motivators that we have and encompasses the Drive to Acquire & Achieve

3. Social Motivation- focus is on the social drives that motivate us and includes the Drive to Bond & Belong

4. Passion Motivation (this name is still being hotly debated – but for now its what we are running with)… – focus is on the motivational element of purpose and passion – including defending one’s honor and tribe

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Rethinking the 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation

I have been touting the 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation since I first read the 2008 Harvard Business Review article “Employee Motivation: A Powerful New Model” by  Nohria, , Groysberg, and Lee.   It is a powerful theory on human motivation in general, and in particular, employee motivation.  First presented in the 2002 book, “Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices” by Lawrence and Nohria, the model outlines four main drives of motivation.

At the Lantern Group, we’ve been working with this model for almost three years now.  We’ve posted on it several times in this blog (see 4-Drive Model here, Impact on Leaders here, and other info here, here, here, here and here for just a few examples).

It’s  good – but not perfect.

Right away we realized that it needed to be tweaked.

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