Think you can offer incentives or rewards long after the fact and it won’t affect the results? Here’s a story I’ve been watching closely that disputes the idea that timing isn’t a major factor in decision making (even for nine year olds).
My wife is a teacher (and a darn good one). One of the things she has done in her classroom is to offer special lunches to students who hit their reading goals. Those special lunches involve me bringing them something from Chick-Fil-A (a Southern delicacy!) on the Friday immediately after they reach their goal.
But it wasn’t always that way.
For the first half of the school year, the agreement was that if the students read their goal amount, then I would bring food at the end of the grading period. That could take up to nine weeks (if the kid’s a fast reader), and that’s like infinity in a child’s eyes. While she had a few kids read their books, most of them did not.
A new, better way
Then, this half of the school year, we’ve done it differently. Instead of waiting until the grading period is over (up to nine weeks), she gives them the reward less than seven days after they meet their goals. This has had a few effects on the process.
- It lets the other kids (in the midst of their own progress) see the tangible reward and encourages them to reach their own goals.
- It keeps the process high on everyone’s radar by making a reference every week or so.
- The kids who reach their goals and get rewarded? There is a 100% goal completion for kids who met their rewards in previous sessions (in other words, they are repeaters).
- There are significantly more students who reach their goal amounts on this new system (more than twice as many, I’d say).
I love the process of continuous improvement and how my wife can see something like this changing how the students are engaged in their reading program. Next year she can tweak it a little more and see if those numbers get even higher, but it’s nice to start off with something you know that works.
What it means for you
Thinking about offering rewards or incentives to your workforce? Make sure you don’t ignore the time element. It can help (or hurt) you in more ways than you might imagine.