This is the last of my Ohio SHRM posts, I’ve left this one to the end because I wanted to spend a bit more time thinking about it. The session was delivered by motivation,incentives and rewards expert Paul Hebert, otherwise known as @IncentIntel on twitter. Paul has a good take on how to apply incentives to bringing about changes in behaviour, and what a meaningful reward programme should look like.

Paul gave some great real life examples of things that had both worked and failed spectacularly. One point I took from this was not to reward behaviour you expect. The example Paul gave was the practice some people have of rewarding expected normal performance. Companies who reward those staff who turn upon time or don’t go off sick. In effect, this approach is making normal expectation the exception. It makes sense to drop this approach, and incentivize only those behaviours that really are above average.

Paul wants to change behaviours by reward. It is only by changing behaviours from exception to habit, that you really change the way things are done. You can have short-term impact through incentive based competitions to bring short-term change. I have blogged in the past about how I have used i-pad competitions to drive referral programs. This has got great results, and can be a great way to kick-start an initiative that you want to launch. Although the results and volumes have been outstanding, once the i-pad is won, the volumes drop off. Such programs are only sustained by adding incentives that are valued by the employees on a longer term basis.

Hebert spoke about what people respond to best, and the importance of talking to your employees to understand this. It’s easy to spend a lot of time and effort in coming up with what you believe is a great incentive, with a reward they will value, only to discover that the outcome is nowhere near what you were expecting. I’ve been there with this one in the past, and the post-mortem revealed that what I thought everybody would want in return for a change in behaviour and performance, was way off the mark. You only find out what people really want with ongoing, meaningful engagement and trust.

The main theme of Hebert’s presentation was around social influence. Not in a Klout kind of way, but real life influence. Interestingly, Hebert commented that in his experience, it’s usually around 5% of employees who influence the behaviour of the other 95%. The real leaders of the organisation, regardless of title are the 5%. You get the 5% on board with your initiatives, and the behaviours of the rest will follow.

What I find most interesting about this, is that if you look at any community or social network, the numbers are pretty much the same. It’s usually 5% again who hold the influence in the community. Whilst Hebert was talking, it got me thinking about the 5% number. I wonder if there is any correlation between the 5% who hold the influence in an organisation, and those who would rank highest in the organisation on Klout, Peer Index or a similar scale of influence?

It seems to me that the skill sets, drivers and personalities of these 2 groups of people would be very similar. I haven’t tested this formally yet, and measuring what is considered on-line “influence”  is much easier than measuring “real influence” in a work group. There is opinion and work based surveys that can be applied, that over time could provide some comparable data, a kind of real life K+. If there is any relationship between the 2 groups, then it becomes much easier to identify the influencers in the organisation.

If you can identify the magic 5% in the organisation who hold the influence, then you can identify what rewards motivate them. This is usually much bigger than money, with recognition, opportunity and development ranking highly. Once the 5% are motivated, the 95% will follow, changing behaviours through influence, and real change will take place.

The strategy for change I took from Hebert’s presentation is:

1: Identify the behaviours you want to change in order to achieve the desired outcome.

2: Identify the “rewards of change” that will resonate with your influencers. (the 5%)

3: Make reward programs transparent and easy to understand. Communicate progress at every opportunity.

4: Enlist, through clear communication and conversation, internal champions from your key influencers.

5: Start the program and deliver on your promises.

Hebert made me really think about what he terms behavioural economics, and the real power of social influence. I hope to work with Paul in the future in identifying what can drive referral programs, and make them habit among employees, driven by the best rewards and internal influencers. I recommend you make his blog regular reading, and consider who the magic 5% might be in your organisation.



Incentive Intelligence Blog