An overly simplistic view of why people work has led to a misunderstanding of the factors that can help drive performance.

Too often, the error is made of equating motivation with the potential for monetary reward. Yet, more evidence is emerging on the impact of other elements at play including; acknowledgement and recognition of efforts, the meaningfulness of the work and the potential challenge provided by the tasks.

Behavioural economist Dan Ariely warns us of considering motivation and payment as the same thing. Ariely claims that we should also associate meaning, creation, ownership, challenges, identity and pride amongst elements that can make people feel positive about their work.

In one study, Ariely asked participants (split into 2 groups) to build structures (Bionicles) from Lego. Participants were paid decreasing amounts for each structure built – $3 for the first, $2.70 for the second and so on. While one group’s creations were set aside, the other group had theirs disassembled as soon as they had been built.

The results: The first group made 11 structures on average, while the 2nd group averaged only 7 before they quit. (A significant difference of 57%)

The implications: The ability to see their completed structures – even for a short period – and to have them seen by others was enough to dramatically improve performance (and motivation to perform).

The application for sales and marketing professionals: Do our salespeople get the opportunity to see the fruits of their labours? As well as recognising the performance and results of our people, consider the added benefit/motivation that could be provided by helping them see the impact that they are making.

In the instance of donor acquisition programs for example, consider explaining the actual impact that any funds raised can make. This allows us to tap into more potential elements of motivation, in this case it could include; meaning, ownership of results, challenge and pride.


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