Seeing motivation with new eyes

Several years ago, I wrote in Training: A solution looking for a problem, that some barriers to performance which are often overlooked when prescribing training, include:

  1. Unclear expectations (such as policies & guidelines);
  2. Inadequate resources;
  3. Unclear performance measures;
  4. Rewards and consequences not directly linked to the desired performance.

In some cases, these barriers could be addressed and there would be no further requirement for training. Where there is a genuine lack of skills and knowledge, training may be required, but it should only be in cases where the other barriers to performance have been addressed. A trained worker, without the right resources and with unclear expectations, will still not perform up to the desired standard.

I’d like to revisit point #4, Rewards & Consequences, because it is often overlooked by Human Performance Technology (HPT) practitioners and is usually passed over to those folks in Human Resources who handle pay & benefits. There’s a compensation “system” and we’ve just accepted it for many decades. We should have paid more attention to the data.

Recently, Dan Pink has looked at the area of rewards, consequences and motivation at work and has shown that much of what we have taken for granted is just not supported by the research. Extrinsic rewards only work for simple physical tasks and increased monetary rewards can actually be detrimental to performance, especially with knowledge work. The keys to motivation at work are for each person to have a sense of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, as shown in this video.

In my career, I have drifted away from instructional design methods like ADDIE because they only address the How and not the Why of work performance. I became deeply involved in HPT for several years because it provided good tools for work analysis, but then found that HPT did not help in understanding the social side of work and learning. I have since looked at the Organizational Development and Knowledge Management fields for different perspectives. Once again, I see that most of us in these various disciplines are nothing more than blind monks trying to understand an elephant. We have to look outside our cloistered fields in order to see with new eyes.

2 Responses to “Seeing motivation with new eyes”

  1. Dennis Callahan

    I had a year long assignment out of training about 5 years ago that was eye opening. It provided another perspective and has been helpful in keeping training in perspective with the bigger picture.

    It was also interesting because I was able to hear what people thought about training when the topic was brought up. The good and bad. I wasn’t viewed as “Training”, so I observed a more unfiltered version of what people thought of training.

    Reply
  2. Jon Husband

    #4, Rewards & Consequences, because it is often overlooked by Human Performance Technology (HPT) practitioners and is usually passed over to those folks in Human Resources who handle pay & benefits. There’s a compensation “system” and we’ve just accepted it for many decades. We should have paid more attention to the data.

    Your last sentence needs emphasis. Compensation schemes driving performance has been the fundamental assumption for quite a while now, and we’ve seen the limits of its effectiveness and its consequences.

    This area is also at the heart of work design (whether by default or not ?) and as such will need significant examination as understanding of motivation and networks increases, as it hasn’t changed all that much over the past decade, except for the notion of incentivizing via bonus.

    Reply

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