Scientists Show That Incentives Hurt Performance: So What Does Motivate Employees?

Traditionally, companies seek to motivate employees through rewards like money, awards, gifts, time off, or a cheesy holiday party. Studies show that not only is this technique failing to provide the intended motivation, it’s also worsening performance in some cases.

During a recent TED talk on the puzzle of motivation, Dan Pink elaborated on the way managers are rewarding employees and how they’re doing it all wrong. Pink recaps three findings that we can’t afford to neglect or minimize:

1. The 20th century reward-and-punishment approach we’ve come to expect as a natural part of work can be effective, but only in a “surprisingly narrow band of circumstances.”

2. If-then rewards often destroy creativity.

3. The secret to high performance lies in the unseen intrinsic drive to do things for their own sake, because they matter.

So what does work to motivate employees? To find out, read our article featured in SEEN Magazine: When Incentives Harm Performance, What Scientists Know That Schools Don’t.