Recruitment & Retention Opinion

What Motivates YOU?

By Emily Douglas-McNab — March 23, 2012 2 min read
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Image: worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Are YOU motivated by money or making a difference? In follow up to my previous post, What (REALLY) Motivates People, we learned that responses may vary depending on your career, family and financial situation, and many other factors. Or, maybe there are other things that drive you to perform in your job.

I frequently hear from educators that they entered the profession to make a difference. I believe the majority of teachers are driven to help kids. In fact, I shared in a recent blog that I too desired to be a teacher when I was younger because I wanted to have an impact on students.

However, I also believe that educators, like most of us, can be motivated by money and other incentives as well. When I speak about strategic compensation and innovative rewards to large crowds of educators, I usually begin by asking the audience if they’re altruists or behaviorists.

What do ‘behaviorists’ believe? Behaviorists believe that a system creates signals and that individuals in the system consequently respond. They also believe that people are motivated by money and other incentives.

What do ‘altruists’ believe? Altruists believe that incentives are not motivators. They also believe that what drives people to change or behave in a particular manner is “making a difference”... not money, rewards, or recognition.

Without fail, 90 percent of the crowd raises their hands as self-proclaimed altruists (which I believe is their true feeling). With a nod and smile, I then take them through a short scenario. The example changes frequently, but it goes something like this:

Me: I have a proposal for you. I need a research paper on any topic you choose that is 20 pages long, with 1-inch margins, double-spaced, in 11-point Arial font, and uses at least five primary sources from 2010 to present. But, I need it in 168 hours or 1 week, exactly. No late papers accepted. Any questions? Crowd: Can I use a paper I already have and update it? Me: Yes. I then ask how many people would accept my proposal if I offered $500 to write the paper? Roughly 15 percent of the crowd raises their hand. Me: Ok, what about for $1,000? At that point about 50 percent of people in the room raise their hand. Me: What about for $5,000? The audience starts to get excited and almost everyone has their hand raised. Me: What if I offered $10,000? The crowd usually laughs, everyone raises their hand, and the people who indicated they would write the paper for $500 say they didn't know I'd pay that much.

(Hopefully, I didn’t just ruin this example for future presentations.)

This IS NOT an official survey, but it is an important example to show that most of us have a “price,” and depending on the individual and their situation, that price can change. Price doesn’t have to be cash. It could also represent non-monetary rewards such as health or life insurance, loan repayment, etc.

This experiment also shows that we all have different motivators, and everyone has a little “behaviorist” in them. This IS NOT a bad thing, but it is the truth. Strategic compensation and reward programs are not a magic bullet, but they can be an effective tool when designed collaboratively as part of a larger human capital development plan and tied to educational-improvement goals. This truth must be considered when looking to build systems that recruit, reward, develop, and retain highly effective staff.

The opinions expressed in K-12 Talent Manager are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.