What Are They Aiming For?


They started to discuss the idea of a ‘100 percenter’ that was a day where the machines didn’t have to be stopped and no photographic paper produced was flawed and therefore had to be thrown away. This meant looking at systems but it also meant giving the people on the factory floor something to aim towards. He was telling me of his delight one day when he was walking into work and the night shift were coming out and giving him high fives as they had achieved a ‘100 percenter’ the previous night.

Recognition and a shared mission motivate greater contribution. When staff are given a target to aim for and the goals of the business are shared people will naturally be drawn to contribute to that target particularly when recognition and unpredictable rewards are used to improve motivation.

Contribution to Improve Motivation - Lisa Renn

Putting this into action in your work place has five steps:

  1. Share concerns and the higher purpose of the business- this is about empathy and trust. If you as the manager or business owner can share the business concerns you are demonstrating to your staff that you believe in their ability to help with the solution. Research is finding that the millennials (Born 1981-1997) want to work for organisations that have a positive impact that feel they have contributed to. But really everyone likes to work towards an end goal; at the very least they need to feel they are part of something bigger not just doing the same stuff over and over for no apparent reason.
  2. Utilise expertise – the people doing the work are the ones with the hands on experience and are best placed to point out issues and suggest solutions to problems identified in the business systems. A principle in health promotion is community participation which means you don’t organise a program for others without consulting them first.
  3. Establish goal posts – work together to agree upon goals, it’s quite typical that the people doing the work will set higher goals than you would have. It’s like asking the child to choose the punishment it will often be worse than you would have thought of!
  4. Negotiate rewards- let the people who are to receive the rewards have a hand in deciding what a reward would look like. A fine bottle of red wine is not that great if you don’t like red wine but a half day off might be a sought after reward. This is another important place to consider community participation and using the principles of the ‘dopamine response’.
    • Dopamine is a brain chemical that motivates people to act due to the promise of a reward. It’s the science behind marketing that suggest savings of 60% off, buy one get one free and using smell to make shoppers hungry or relaxed – it’s the promise of the reward if you act a certain way not the actual getting the reward that is the motivator. Kelly McGonigal in her book ‘The Will power instinct’ talks about the promise of a reward and how this drives behaviour and stimulates the desire centre of the brain. This explains why people will more likely put their money into a lottery ticket than they will for the predictable interest rate in a savings account- the possibility of getting an unknown reward is a bigger motivator. It’s the unpredictability that creates the greatest effort as predictable monetary rewards did not elicit the same level of desirable behaviour as an unpredictable reward even though it was less than the known monetary one. Other studies have also shown that larger monetary rewards decrease performance so it’s not necessary or helpful to give large predictable monetary rewards.
    • Incentivising tasks that traditionally people try to avoid or dislike doing as they are monotonous or more complex can utilise this dopamine response. In drug treatment programs McGonigal presented the idea of a ‘gold fish bowl ‘which has been successfully utilised to curb drug taking behaviour as participants get to pick a reward out of the bowl when they achieve their goal. The rewards in this exercise range from $1 to $20, with only one large reward of $100, half the paper had rewards of no value but had the words ‘great job’ written on them. The promise of a reward, and possibly a big one, was enough to motivate effort and the unpredictability of the result make participants more motivated to participate. The promise of a reward utilises this powerful brain chemical to drive greater motivation.
  5. Make progress visible – Once the goal posts are set then show people how they are going. If they only get ‘No, not there yet’ it will not be as motivating as telling them they have improved by 30% and if they keep it up they will hit the mark in the next week. Making progress visible is a concept Dr Jason Fox presents in his book ‘The Game Changer’ and letting workers know of not only targets but how they are going goes a long way to motivating increased performance.