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Using incentives

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“The stick and the carrot” is an old technique for changing a person’s behaviour. Systematic researches by psychologists like B. F. Skinner have given this axiom a scientific foundation and taken it from mere reward-and-punishment to a systematic approach of changing the work-culture of an organisation.

In an organisational set-up, a reward is called an incentive and it could take many forms. A raise in salary, periodic bonus, a free trip with family to a place of resorts — one could think of any number of incentives. The question is how to maximize the effectiveness of an incentive system. Here are some tips:

Watch what works with him: Human Resource personnel can, at times, follow incentive schemes as a drill without going into the details of how they work on the ground.  Deciding incentives can become a routine exercise to be taken periodically.

The HR personnel should keep assessing as to what is important as reward to a certain individual. You don’t need to create tests for this. Just learn to talk and extract relevant information from a conversation that may appear to be routine chat.

Collateral fall-out: A reward to one person is, by implication, a punishment for his colleagues. In a group of ten, if you choose one person for reward, you are by implication indicating to the others that they are in some way wanting in performance. This is why most HR managers prefer to reward teams rather than individuals. However, rewarding an individual has its advantages and one must learn how to reward an individual without creating a negative collateral fall-out. 

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