Do rewards really work?

Are you a carrot or a stick person?

Many companies implement a reward system for all employees to work safely and report incidents, but do they actually work? Rewards and punishments are both ways of manipulating safer behaviour.

According to Alfie Kohn who carried out much research on rewards explains, for example work safely and here is what we are going to do for you, which to employees means do this in a safe manner and your get that, a decrease in incidents doesn’t necessarily mean the workforce have got safer, in my experience they report less to avoid reprimand, which is sometimes seen as we are getting safer.

Rewards are most damaging to attention when the task is already fundamentally motivating. That may be simply because there is that much more interest to lose when extrinsics are introduced; if you’re doing something boring, your interest level may already be at rock bottom.

However, that doesn’t give us license to treat employees like pets when the task is uninteresting. Instead, we need to examine the task itself, the content of the work pattern, to see how it can be made more engaging.

Regardless of what we do about it, though, one of the most thoroughly researched findings in social psychology is that the more you reward someone for doing something, the less interest that person will tend to have in whatever he or she was rewarded to do.

Kohn goes on to explain that praise, and other rewards—are not merely ineffective over the long haul but counterproductive with respect to the things that concern us most: Another group of studies shows that when people are offered a reward for doing a task that involves some degree of problem solving or creativity—or for doing it well—they will tend to do lower quality work than those offered no reward.


We need clever recognition

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, two of the most valuable psychological needs we have as human beings are the need to be appreciated and the need to “belong.” These needs are met through peer-to-peer thanks and recognition. Look at the hierarchy: you can see the compensation and benefits support a fundamental need, but recognition and career advancement support our higher-level psychological needs.

Hormones Play a Role

One final point. Recognition has a physiological impact on performance. Oxytocin is the well-known “good feeling hormone.” Our bodies create Oxytocin when we feel appreciated (even shaking someone’s hand creates this hormone). Recent research shows that people who work under the influence of Oxytocin perform better and are more trustworthy at work.

When we fully embrace a modern recognition program and people start thanking each other, trust and engagement go up – improving employee morale, quality and of course safety.

Next time you see someone doing the right thing, take a minute and thank them openly.