Free resources for employee incentives

There's more than one way to skin that ol' cat.

By Russ Kratowicz, Executive Editor

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To paraphrase one Web site, wouldn't it be nice if you could unleash some discretionary employee effort for the benefit of the company? We already learned that flogging doesn't help. Coaxing the best performance out of employees can be a perplexing problem if you are not in tune with soft issues that permeate every office and plant. This month, we dive into the morass we call the Web in search of truth. If not truth, then how about free, non-commercial, registration-free resources that will assist you in getting voted "Manager of the Year" by all relevant parties.

Just one person's big picture

In an interview published in The Interpreter, Tom Kinser, CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee, presents his philosophy about incentive compensation plans. Kinser determined the incentive plan for the 2,900 employees under his command. You can learn about what he did at http://www.renolan.com/services/iasa9512.htm.

Motivated youth, motivated employees

The interplay between motivation and incentive starts early in our lives. Because you can't force people to learn, motivation for learning in a classroom setting was the topic of a 1990 conference sponsored by Office of Educational Research and Improvement. One finding that came out of the conference was that unless the effort students put into their own education increases dramatically, we will have a crisis at the national level. Gee whiz, folks, here we are ten years later. Now, at the national level, there is much talk about defects in our educational system. Were they right, or what? And those former students are now looking for jobs.

Although the conference focused on students, many of the conclusions apply, in slightly modified form, to adults working in your plant right now. Think about it. Human nature, psychology and culture evolve slowly, if at all. While they are growing up, our youth simply recycles what we have exposed them to all their lives. Talk about a vicious circle. But I digress. You can find a 17-page summary of the reports delivered at the conference, Hard Work and High Expectations: Motivating Students to Learn, at http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content3/work.expectations.k12.4.html.

According to Bill Huitt at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, there are four types of behavioristic learning theories: contiguity, classical (respondent) conditioning, operant (instrumental) conditioning and observational (social) learning. There is a connection between each theory and the dynamic duo of motivation and incentives. Huitt goes on to explain other relevant terms, such as extinction, spontaneous recovery, higher order conditioning, stimulus generalization and discrimination. I guess what I want you to do is check out the link at the end that deals with behavior modification in a classroom. It is a "how-to" on using psychological principles to achieve a goal. Just think "worker" where you read "child." Huitt's site is at http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/behsys/behsys.html

Traditional suggestion system

The Texas Incentive and Productivity Commission instituted the State Employee Incentive Program, a traditional suggestion system, at the end of 1988. In the intervening years, the program has elicited more than 9,600 suggestions that saved nearly $20 million for the Great State of Texas. Authors of approved suggestions are eligible to receive cash awards of ten percent of the first-year net savings attributable to their suggestion, to a maximum award of $5,000. The average employee cash award is $1,085. The only reason I mention this site is that everything you need to know about instituting your own suggestion plan is available online at http://www.tipc.state.tx.us/seip.htm. The submission forms and evaluation criteria are available as PDF files. There is a 20-page evaluator's handbook. There is a flow chart for handling the paperwork. Of course, you would need to tailor the content to an industrial workplace setting.

Incentified safety

Workplace safety is an issue that has been at the center of many bonus programs. You know the drill--"Everyone here gets a free dinner downtown at the Ritz if we can surpass our previous record for operations without a lost-time accident." It sounds good on the surface, but bribing your way to keeping workers healthy leads to some unintended negative consequences. The most glaring is the propensity to avoid reporting injuries because the wounded employee does not want to be branded as the "one that blew our safety record and the big dinner." An 18-page article by Wayne G. Pardy deals with this and other factors that degrade the value of a traditional incentive plan aimed at increasing worker safety. You can find Safety Incentive, Recognition and Awareness Programs: One Company's Experience and An Industry Perspective at http://siri.org/library/npincprog/npincent.html.

Non-monetary incentives

Gifts That Keep on Giving, an article by Carol Madigan, argues that managers with well-developed people skills don't need to rely on cash to bribe workers into doing a fine job or to reward those who already have. There are a lot of personal touches that will work wonders. Add a little common courtesy and you gain the respect of your constituency. Visit http://www.businessfinancemag.com/archives/appfiles/Article.cfm?IssueID=91&ArticleID=4338 for the details. The online format of the article is less than adequate, though. After you read the first page, you are forced to click to access the second page, and so on. If you try to print the article, you get one page at a time and still must load the next page before continuing with the print function.

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