When asked to discuss how best to measure the effectiveness of an incentive program, I have a flashback to that Abbott & Costello routine, “Who’s on First.” If we’re not clear, we’ll go round and round in an endless chase meaning one thing but communicating another. We should start with a look at what makes a program effective. Further, we need to know why we feel it necessary to measure an incentive program in the first place. And that begs the question: “Why use incentives at all?”
First, let’s agree on a few operational definitions of common terms often confused with one another. Motivation and incentive are two that are often interlaced, resulting in a conversation that misses the target.
Motivation is that drive, that fire that comes from within. It can’t be imposed upon you. You simply cannot motivate someone to do something. Eisenhower said it best: “Motivation is the art of getting someone to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”
Incentive, by contrast, is an external influencer. It’s an initiative or designed set of offers that intends to persuade you to act.
The intrinsic/extrinsic debate has been going on for a while, but a balanced use of both provides an inarguable ROI for efforts to increase employee engagement. Consider: