How do you motivate a demographic in which 3 out of 4 people have no idea what they are doing? While there may be disagreement over the cause of these shortcomings, what can be agreed upon is that doubling down on the same system will not generate different results. Rather than focus on the controversy of failure, let us examine the catalysts for success.
The first thing to accept is that money alone cannot fuel sustainable results. This can be difficult to embrace in a business world whose chief indicator of success is revenue, but it is also something we instinctively seem to know. In his 88-page manifesto and viral TED Talk, business guru, behavioral science author, and Yale alumnus Dan Pink explains how monetary motivators can actually backfire.
Reps, managers, and execs each have their reasons for not throwing more cash into the system. What then can supplement (or replace) commission-based motivators? In short, what works?
While Goldman Sachs’ research demonstrates a psychological shift toward intrinsic empowerment among millennial workforces, this evolution is also increasingly reflected among all employees. In other words, people show up because they believe in the work they are doing. As Harvard Business Review advises, practices like autonomy, transparency, and strengths-based management define a stellar workplace and thus stellar productivity.
But let’s get more concrete than that. Enter four rewards-based motivators not based on age-old financial incentives:
With 70% of customer lifetime value now generated post initial sale, a long-term strategy is essential. The rise of microtransactions means brands must keep consumers happier for longer. For salespeople to respect the full buying process, they need to actually stay on the team. If customer and employee retention are two birds, company equity is your one stone. Align your reps with the buyer by making them shareholders, and the company’s success becomes their own. Hard sales tactics take a back seat when everyone recognizes that acquiring one new customer costs 5 to 25 times what it takes to retain an existing one (HBR). Likewise, one lost salesperson can cost 1.5 - 2 times their annual comp. In other words, motivate with rewards that build fidelity to the customer and to you. In a profession leaving 70% of customer value on table and churning 22.4% of its reps (CSO Insights), equity is a dual-threat solution.
People value moments over money. Give a star employee a vacation or the money to take one, and see which one he remembers a year from now. The experiential economy is a testament to this (e.g. why people pay $5 for a $1 coffee at Starbucks). You have two intrinsic motivators you can tap into: (a) public recognition and (b) personal rejuvenation. Team-centered events are perfect for the former, ensuring an experience both exclusive and inclusive. After all, iron sharpens iron. Time off is an equally valid option for those seeking personal growth and recharge. Whereas financial incentives insert one more link between you and the reward employees buy with it, the gift of experiences ensures they associate the reward directly with you.
Workplace flexibility and high productivity are not trade-offs (HBR). Insert the right people, and adaptive hours can boost company output. With the world economy moving away from the clock-in, clock-out rigidity of the past, this approach supplies two rewards that bond employee and employer: flexibility and trust. This is not a blanket privilege—the recipients must first prove themselves. Ease in with a trial period and maintain core hours for everyone.
In the age of individual development plans, giving people a measure of choice is powerful. People are more likely to own their target if they own their reward. It goes without saying that proposals are not automatic. They are a balance struck between directors, managers, and reps. The final result may entail exclusive privileges, increased autonomy, or anything else that is (a) mutually agreeable, (b) encourages positive behavior, and (c) doesn’t break the bank. Even if this option proves too radical, just considering it forces you to take the employee’s perspective and ask yourself:
What would motivate me if I were _______?
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