Do money awards motivate? Does being selected employee of the month drive desired behaviors? Does winning a free lunch for the best idea grow the number of good ideas filling up the improvement pipeline?
Financial incentives, individual awards and team awards are key components for many continuous-improvement or change-management programs. But whether they help or hurt as motivational tools draws mixed responses, with strong opinions on both sides of the debate.
IndustryWeek columnist Lonnie Wilson is among those who do not advocate the use of such reward programs. It's not that he is against rewards; it is that he believes meaningful intrinsic rewards are better than extrinsic rewards such as gift cards and small sums of money. Indeed, in a recent column he described financial incentives, individual and group award programs as "superficial and normally counterproductive."
Given the diversity of opinion about reward programs, IW asked Lonnie Wilson to expand on his views with regard to certain types of reward programs. His responses are peppered with references to psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and psychologist Frederick Herzberg.
Wilson has been teaching lean and other culture-changing techniques for more than 40 years and is author of "How To Implement Lean Manufacturing." He believes there is no place for financial rewards among North American workers.
"I think the dangers far outweigh the benefits, he says.
To develop and sustain long-term cultural change, Wilson says management must do three things -- model any actions they wish to see repeated, support those actions and reward those actions. That said, he believes many managers implement financial incentives in lieu of "the support and the modeling and the real rewards that people really want."