September 16, 2015
Throughout my career, Ive had numerous opportunities to be involved in a variety of business and sales incentives, and those experiences taught me valuable lessons.
The main definition of incentive is something that incites to action or greater effort. But not all incentives accomplish the goal of motivating. Some incentives actually can generate the opposite outcome. I have experienced this a few times in my career and was reminded of how easily it can happen as a result of an exchange I had with my son.
My son was watching a friends dog over the weekend, and we had agreed to pay him $1 a day to tend to the dog. walk it, play with it, feed and water it. He was more than obliged to do so, since he loves dogs, wants one of his own, and has talked about starting a full time dog walking business someday. This was easy money to him because his passion for the task was already his primary incentive to do well and handle the responsibility.
My sons first dog-sitting challenge came during a walk when his four-legged charge got free from the leash. After a few blocks of chasing, my son cornered the dog and held him until I caught up with the leash. While walking home, my son asked this: Dad, how much will you pay me since I ran after and caught the dog?
I told my son that catching a runaway dog is part of the duties. Then, when he pushed back further about having gone above and beyond, I thought Id appease him and offered 25 cents as a bonus. His response? If you only pay that much for catching the dog, then I wont even run after him next time.
I realized a teaching opportunity had presented itself, but the moment also cemented my feelings on what can happen when incentives are not handled correctly. In his pursuit of monetary compensation, my son had forgotten even if briefly the responsibilities that came with dog sitting.
When handled incorrectly, incentives can have a damaging effect, even in business. Companies need to give incentives serious consideration before rolling them out, as do advertisers when strategizing on marketing campaigns. Quick thinking and off-the-cuff incentives might not generate healthy motivation or genuine engagement.
Marketing ideas, website design, social media efforts and other promotions need to factor in long-term goals alongside short-term strategies. Its important to carefully think through the goal behind an incentive, evaluating the pros and cons, as well as the people who will be directly or indirectly affected. Then test your ideas by bringing other team members into the mix, or find a target audience to use as a sounding board.
Here are seven steps to follow when setting up an incentive:
Identify the desired outcome/behavior.
Determine the worth of said outcome/behavior.
Identify target audience participants and all parties impacted.
Strategize on the value proposition; ensuring its a motivator.
Determine the time period and length of incentive.
Give yourself ample time for communication and roll-out.
Support and recognize.
Thanks, son, for the teaching moment!