Remuneration as reward

Remuneration as reward

Pay rises aren’t enough to motivate your team.

We all want more money, don’t we? Just think what you could do with a little pay rise: rid yourself of that troublesome credit card debt; get a little winter sun in the Caribbean; justify purchasing that car you’ve been dreaming about.

But if you got the increase, would it motivate you to work harder and achieve more?

You might say yes – especially in the boss’s office – but the evidence would be against you.

As early as the 1970s, the psychologist Edward Deci carried out research into the power of money. In one experiment, students were asked to solve puzzles. Some were paid for participating, others were rewarded based on performance; they were paid for each puzzle they solved and were, therefore, incentivised to complete as many as possible. But the results were counter-intuitive. The group where payment was contingent on performance actually performed worse.

In fact, the evidence shows that when people have enough to live comfortably and feel secure among their peer group, money stops motivating them in any significant way.

Businesses need to pay good salaries to attract the best workers, and need to give people rises so they know they are appreciated and have a sense of progression – but while this will help to keep employees loyal, it won’t result in better work.

So what should businesses do to get better performance from the marketing team?

If the carrot doesn’t work, it’s tempting to try the stick. But it’s obvious that threats are a very good way to destroy morale completely. People who feel that their job is constantly on the line might perform well at first, but they’ll soon get burned out and start looking for alternative employment. Deci’s experiments also showed the negative correlation between threats and performance.

The alternative is to try to meet people’s expectations as far as possible. Maslow, in his classic hierarchy of needsclaimed that each of us seeks fulfilment in a number of areas: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualisation. As we meet each need, we move on to the next, in that order.

Money only helps us to meet our basic level needs – physiological (food, shelter) and safety (financial and physical security).

As a team leader, however, you can help to address the other three by creating a positive work environment. If money is an extrinsic motivation, you are giving people an intrinsic motivation to work – setting them up to fulfil their own needs, if they work hard.

Fulfilling people’s social needs – encouraging a positive culture among the team – has been written about at great length. Key factors include hiring people who will work well together, improving the physical setting/relaxation areas, encouraging colleagues to collaborate on projects and even to eat together at lunchtime. 

Esteem is more difficult in some cases. It’s easy to provide people with recognition when they’ve performed well, but how can you boost the position of those who have made mistakes? Unfortunately, there has to be an average for people to excel. Not everyone can be a winner all the time.

For this reason, self-actualisation – gaining new skills, realising your personal potential and growing as a person – is difficult to reach. Maslow, living in a time when manual drudge-work was more common, believed only one in a hundred people could achieve it.

Fortunately, marketers are in a great position to become fully fulfilled: giving your team the opportunity to train in the expanding disciplines of marketing; giving them the space to exercise their creativity; allowing them to put their ideas into practice; all these things will make people happy and give them the intrinsic motivation they need to produce great work.

More recently, thinkers have expanded Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to include a further step – the transcendent need to help others self-actualise. The good news is that, as a team leader in the marketing industry, you are in the rare position of being able to reach the highest peak of all.

Thomas Brown CIM Former Director, Strategy and Marketing
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