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Friday, July 24, 2009

Ask the Professor # 5

Incentive and Recognition Strategies Based on Facts and Research

Question for the Professor: What do employees appreciate more, a "free" gift from their employer or a gift that they knowingly earned?

Dr. Mitchell's Answer: A gift that they knowingly earned?

A study at Emory University conducted by Gregory Berns, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, clearly showed that the human brain is more stimulated when a person earns something as opposed to having something given to him/her. Dr. Berns states: "When you have to do things for your reward, it is clearly more important to the brain." As an example, he goes on to say, "There is substantial evidence that people who win the lottery are not happier a year later."

A similar conclusion was reached by a recent Snowfly survey of 500 users. People responded to this open-ended question: “What do you like about the Snowfly reward system?” There were 361 respondents who recorded something to the effect, “I like it when I earn a reward.” This is opposed to only 25 respondents who made comments such as “I like getting prizes."

As Dr. Berns says, “This (earning things) is a natural process of the human brain….. I don’t think it (the human brain) evolved to what it is today because people sat on a couch and had things fall into their laps.”

Dr. Brooks Mitchell is a professor of management at The University of Wyoming. He has written and published extensively in the field of human motivation in the workplace.