Four Ways to Motivate Employees (According to a Behavioral Psychologist)

The best leaders in the world are the ones most adept at motivating their employees to perform to the fullest extent of their abilities. Increased productivity, improved sales, reduced waste and optimized efficiency are all byproducts of a strong leadership group.

If you ask an employee what would inspire them to work harder and more diligently, their response would likely be something like “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” Offering a monetary raise and cash bonus is not always the most effective or possible solution for your company however. Strong coaching and even noncash incentives (like trips, merchandise or awards) can yield a greater return on investment, and therefore be a more effective use of resources.

Since writing a check is not always the appropriate solution for motivating employees, Susan Weinschenk (“The Brain Lady”) of Weinschenk Institute, LLC, a professional with a Ph.D in Psychology and over 30 years of experience as a behavioral psychologist decided to use her vast knowledge of the human brain to learn more about what really motivates people. She summarized her years of research and analysis into a simple and easily digestible guide titled “Four Ways to Motivate Employees.”

1. Give People Autonomy

Granting your employees autonomy, the ability to have freedom over their actions, is an excellent way to stimulate their desire to master a subject. It is logical that people who have control over their actions will strive to master their craft. Allowing employees to be independent goes hand in hand with increasing their autonomy and therefore makes them more productive. On the converse, people who feel that they have little to no control or autonomy will become apathetic and lose their desire to master a task.

2. Connect People as Part of a Team

If your team feels connected, they tend to be more motivated to work together. Gregory Walton, a professor at Stanford, studied the feelings associated with belonging to a group and its effect on behavior. In one study, he discovered a higher level of inspiration present when college students believed they shared a birthday with another student in the group. Even minimal connections with others, like a common day of birth, can lead to an increase in drive and pursuit of goals.

3. Know When to Reward

It is widely accepted that rewards are powerful tools for reinforcing desired behaviors. When and how often to administer these rewards may be the more important decision here. To establish a new behavior, Weinschenk recommends rewarding every time a preferred action is carried out. For example, an employer issues a popular retail gift card every time an employee reports a safety issue on a new form.

After the advocated behavior has been established, adjustment to the reward schedule is necessary. B.F. Skinner researched reward schedules in the 1950s and the findings are still relevant today. Skinner found that varying the reward schedule was the only way to sustain a desired behavior in the long run. Now that gift card is only awarded after three safety issues are reported, then after five and finally, after seven safety reports.. This variation of the reinforcement schedule allows the motivation level to remain high but prevents predictability. Lower incentive costs will also result due to the fact that fewer rewards are needed.

The type of reward and value further enforce behaviors. Rewards with monetary value can include: gift cards, merchandise, awards and travel. Non-financial incentives might include leaving work early, comp days and public recognition from management.

4. Give Appropriate Feedback

Praise can be used as a reward to sustain desired behavior, but will not always lead to a desire for mastery. Giving feedback without praise is a more appropriate way to promote this quest to be the best within an individual. Feedback can be largely positive, but should also pinpoint areas where improvement is needed. Logically an individual who is praised without constructive criticism may assume they do not need to improve.

Weinschenk took 30 years of learnings in behavioral psychology and identified knowing when to reward as one of the four most important ways to motivate employees. At JNR, we have dedicated our own 30 years to mastering the keys to employee motivation. This has resulted in a keen expertise of understanding the appropriate times to reward, type of rewards to utilize, ways to communicate reward programs and most cost-effective ways to administer rewards. Incentives utilized by JNR include: travel, reward cards and merchandise. Whether you are looking for the appropriate reward to reinforce small behaviors such as cleaning up the company kitchen or large endeavors like reaching multi-million dollar sales targets, we have the tools to ensure that all of your employees desire mastery of their craft.

Check out “8 Steps to Effectively Implement Employee Incentive Programs” here or send us an email at today if you have any questions.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Kristopher Hewkin

Optimizing Travel Program Success with Gift Items

Here at JNR Incorporated we are consistently reviewing the steps necessary to deliver amazing travel programs that possess a “WOW” factor for the participants. Rewarding and motivating top sales dealership personnel with meetings and conferences, engaging and inspiring employees with individual and group travel and incentivizing advertisers to spend more money with “bucket list” trips are the three primary objectives that we achieve with these programs. Obvious determinants of success include: destination, accommodations, activities, cuisine and on-site customer service. A slightly less obvious factor that can optimize the effectiveness of these programs is the gift choices given to attendees pre-trip, during the trip and post-trip.

There are two types of gifts given to program participants that enhance the effectiveness and power of these excursions.

1)    Dimensional Teasers

These typically inexpensive trinkets are essentially a creative extension of your marketing collateral. They are a great compliment to and serve a similar purpose to that of a more traditional brochure or email blast. The purpose of these teasers is to excite participants about the destination by leaving them with a little take-away reminder of the program. The goal can either encourage the participant to increase their performance and compete to win the grand prize, or simply to get the winners amped up for the upcoming trip they have already won.

These gifts are usually location-specific. For example, your group is going to South Africa to see a wildlife refuge, an elephant sculpture that was hand painted in Cape Town would be an excellent option. Usually three to four mailers are sent out to increase touch points and memorability in your marketing campaign. The strategic number of teasers to send and when to send them are both very important decisions.  Sometimes the first two items are sent to all eligible participants while the contest is ongoing in an attempt to increase performance. The final gift is sent only to those who have won, after the eligibility period is over, to excite and congratulate them on the trip.

An added benefit of sending small, token gifts is that they are often placed on office desks and in homes creating trophy value. These items are seen by others and serve as a constant reminder of the kindness demonstrated by the issuing company and a source of pride for the winner. Branding these items with the program logo is often a wise option because it puts your company logo in front of others.

2)    Room Gifts

Offerings awarded in the form a room gift differs from teasers in that these items are given on-site once the program has begun and they are usually higher in value. Surprising a participant with a room gift is a great way to complement the activities and destination while the program is underway. Room gifts are often kept long after the program has concluded to remind the participants of their great experience and increase goodwill and loyalty for the company and individuals that rewarded them with this trip.

Again the amount of gifts to award, times of delivery, and value of each gift are all important strategic decisions to make. Destination-specific gifts such as a unique coffee grown in that region are great reminders of the experience. The hottest tech items that can have a practical use on-site or designer luggage are other great ideas. Branding with program logos can cheapen these items though and is generally not recommended.

Tailoring the Product to Your Target Audience:

It is important to understand your target audience before purchasing room gifts or promotional trinkets. Age, gender, location of residence, income level, and general preferences are huge factors to take into consideration. It becomes a bit more complicated when you operate programs where the demographics are very diverse. Outsourcing gift purchasing to a professional with experience is often the appropriate option because you need someone who is on the pulse of trends and understands how demographics dictate gift choice. Buying a gift for a multi-millionaire is probably one of the most difficult purchases to make unless you have industry insight and experience.

Tailoring the Product to Your Destination and Program Activities:

The climate, location, activities and customs of the destination must mesh with the item that you are offering as a dimensional teaser or room gift. If your group will be golfing in The Bahamas during the warm season, it might be a good idea to go with some nice golf shorts and a divot tool. It is also important to ensure that the product is actually authentic for the particular nation and not mistakenly gift something more traditional for a neighboring country.

Tailoring the Products to Your Company:

Gifting items that weave into the culture of your employees and company is a fundamental way to form a deeper connection with your audience. If your company is tech savvy, providing cutting-edge electronics will be very well received among participants. Conversely, offering a tequila room gift may be inappropriate if your organization is more conservative and traditional.

Selecting the Correct Procurement Provider: 

Outsourcing these decisions to a company that has the experience and know how is often a wise decision when you begin to understand all the considerations that must be taken in to account for gift giving to support corporate travel. Aside from the critical pieces above, the actual procurement, price negotiation and delivery specifics can be detrimental oversights for those not well versed in the industry.

ASI certified suppliers like JNR can take items once thought of as unaffordable and make them fit into your budget seamlessly. Products can be procured and shipped to your destination for less than retail in the majority of cases! Handling the price negotiations, procurement and shipping logistics are just a few of the major strengths that JNR will bring to your organization. We can write a book on the complications that occur when you decide to ship these gifts internationally without industry knowledge!

Send me an email at today if you have any questions or comment below to give us your input on the subject. To understand why incentive travel may be the key to engaged employees, click here for supplemental reading.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Kristopher Hewkin