What Science Knows About Motivation & Incentives (…and business does not).

You probably believe that your employer should be paying you more money. If this happens, your productivity will skyrocket, and you would add more value to the company as an employee. Right? Even I thought so.

Daniel Pink seems to think differently, and he has proof. According to him, external motivators like salary and benefits may be effective for motivating people who perform simple tasks. However, they are quite ineffective for motivating knowledge workers performing creative or highly analytical tasks.

Does this mean that people should be paid crappy salaries? By no means. We all know money is important, and when salaries are beneath a certain threshold, this can become a demotivating factor. However, once this threshold is crossed, further increases in salary and benefits do little in terms of further motivating the individual. While this threshold varies from one individual to another, what’s interesting is that it is usually lower than a lot of us think.

If pay and benefits are the not the primary means for attracting and retaining high performing employees, then what is? The solution lies not in external, but internal motivators.



2 thoughts on “What Science Knows About Motivation & Incentives (…and business does not).

  1. The examples he cited don’t really do justice to the argument. In those cases the reward scheme put the worker under pressure, its the pressure that causes them to under perform. In reality it is more related to performance bonuses than for a salary based increase. there are more variables which will be changed with the increase and which could affect productivity positively

    1. Hey man,
      Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that performance bonuses have a higher likelihood to create the kind of focus that kills productivity. On the other hand, while most salary increases may not cause decreases in productivity, they also do NOT create the kind of motivation that INCREASES productivity. If I increase your salary today by say 20%, you will not work harder, or be more creative than you were last month, unless your salary was previously unable to even sustain you monthly. However, If I give you a role that challenges and excites you, or change your work environment significantly. You probably might. The ‘secret sauce’ of motivation and incentives lies in the “more variables” which you mentioned, and not in higher pay; for the most part. Daniel Pink has a book called Drive which gives more context: http://www.amazon.com/Drive-Surprising-Truth-About-Motivates/dp/0143145088

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