How to move beyond carrots and sticks to achieve true intrinsic motivation with your next employee wellness program

carrots and sticks

If you’ve been wondering if you should use the carrot or the stick approach with your corporate wellness program, maybe you’ve been asking the wrong question.

Generally, when we think of carrots we think of cash incentives, prizes, even cheaper insurance premiums or lower deductibles, but the emerging research indicates that an organization will need to fork over more and more money each year to keep employees interested, engaged and motivated to participate. Currently, the average corporation spends about $600 on incentives per person. This is up from just $200 not that long ago.

 What if we begin to ask the question about what truly motivates people? How do we increase the kind of motivation that isn’t caused by external rewards or punishment for that matter? This is known as intrinsic motivation.

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink suggests three key concepts to increase intrinsic motivation, the motivation trifecta: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

 Autonomy, or letting people decide what’s interesting, relevant and important to them is the first component. Instead of telling people what they should be worried about or prioritize in their own health, let them decide. Self-direction is a natural force within us. Pink points out how children explore and play on their own without external rewards. They follow their own interests and curiosity. We should allow our employees to do the same when it comes to their health and wellness.

 Mastery. Pink discusses how our “Goldilocks tasks” that we do on a daily basis can’t be too hard or too easy, they need to be just right to engage and challenge us, but at the same time, leave us feeling competent and capable. Having a sense of progress in growing our capabilities is vital to mastery. Within your wellness program, design challenges that aren’t too hard or too easy. The same goes with teaching employees new skills such as healthy cooking or meditation / mindfulness for example.

 Purpose. The most important piece to motivation is connecting to a cause that’s bigger than yourself. Instead of focusing on numbers or measurements in your weight loss challenge, focus on a bigger cause that’s connected to other people for example. Help them understand how it’s affecting their children’s lives as well. Another idea is instead of offering the winning walking team individual prizes, you could donate $500 to the charity of their choice, connecting them to a bigger cause that they care about.

 Moving beyond the carrot or the stick approach to autonomy, mastery and purpose trifecta is a necessary leap to truly motivate your workforce.

Check out AdvantageHealth’s CONSULTING SERVICES for additional expertise with this area or CONTACT AdvantageHealth.

Grundy Studios-14_blog post_web

Kristine Keykal, Co-Founder & CEO of AdvantageHealth, has been helping businesses create custom, award-winning corporate wellness programs for over 20 years.