Alfie Kohn Why Incentive Plans Cannot Work

In 1993 Alfie Kohn wrote an article titled ‘Why Incentive Plans Cannot Work’. For the time it was a radical piece critisising any attempts of increasing employee productivity via incentive plans. Even now, it is still more on the radical side of management and leadership theory.

Kohn said that “rewards typically undermine the very processes they are intended to enhance” and that they secured, at best, only temporary compliance.

Before getting further into Kohn’s reasoning, it’s worth hitting pause to revisit some motivational basics. Firstly, motivation is classified into two types, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from the self, whereas extrinsic motivation is supplied externally, usually by the manager. There is a large amount of research that shows that the highest performing people are intrinsically motivated. Extrinsic motivation is a form of behaviour modification, whereby a manager will use techniques to motivate the individual to do something that they would otherwise not want to do. It may be that the employee theoretically wants to do the work, but in practice they’d rather take it slower or more relaxed than you’d like. Continue reading

Victor Vroom Expectancy Theory

In 1964 Victor Vroom developed his Expectancy Theory to explain observations on the motivations behind decision making. It has become one of the most dominate motivational theories in use today, and can be used to explain common workplace strategies such as performance reviews and financial incentive schemes.

Vroom believed that employees were more likely to be highly motivated when they perceived a link between effort, performance and rewards. Sounds fair enough.

He proposed that the link between motivation, effort, performance, and reward could be explained via the following formula:

M = E x I x V

where M = motivation, E = Expectancy, I = Instrumentality, V = Valence. Continue reading

It motivates the workforce to do what, exactly?

As managers we will be asked to play a part in the application of company endorsed motivational techniques.

We might be asked to improve motivation by:

  • Holding annual performance reviews
  • Applying and setting incentive payments/bonuses
  • Cracking the whip, pointing out poor performance
  • Setting aspirational goals and KPI’s

When considering any motivational technique, it is important to ask- Continue reading

Top 9 Employee Values

Why do employee’s stick it out with companies, even when the renumeration is poor? Why do overpaid employee’s still leave? There are a many things to consider here, and it will be the subject of another blog post, but for the moment, lets keep it simple. Let’s focus on values.

Values can be defined as:

“Important and enduring beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or desirable and what is not. Values exert major influence on the behavior of an individual and serve as broad guidelines in all situations.”

from :

To meet the needs of their employees, managers need to consider their staff’s values, and think on how they are delivering, or enabling those values. As a manger you need to be aware of all the core values. So what are they? What are the Top 9 Employee Values?

Continue reading