Immediacy: intrinsic motivation goes up, need for incentives down
Whoever gives quickly gives twice – this old saying has now been confirmed academically: you do increase intrinsic motivation significantly, if you reward someone´s activity immediate and don´t wait for whenever.
Also crucial: by giving early rewards you are not only motivating, but saving money indeed. So for making people follow their targets with more passion and a more positive attitude you have to reward as early as possible instead of praising and honoring your employees not before the next annual meeting, the company´s Christmas dinner or the New Year´s cocktail in January. It´s the timing which counts in the perception of the staff.
That´s at least what a sophisticated study based on 5 detailed analyses and 2 additional surveys at Cornell University and the University of Chicago has found out.
The two female scientists argue that prompt rewarding leads to a direct and unmisinterpretable connection between the respective activity and the target to achieve. By contrast, delayed rewards do not show this instant reference.
It´s about Time: Earlier Rewards increase intrinsic motivation, Woolley/Fishbach, in: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2018, 114(6), 877 – 890.
How many bonusses, incentives and costly team events could be avoided if executives would immediately reward their staff – regardless if the rewards are acclaim, feedback of any kind or simply attention.
Even senior employees keep reporting in countless coaching sessions and workshops: their supervisors don´t recognize either at all or with a big delay that tasks are fulfilled and targets well accomplished. These senior employees complain and feel neglected or even suffer about the little resonance their contributions are apparently producing.
The good news is: top managers are actually aware of these deficits of theirs. But: an overload of meetings, stress in various ways, individual fears or inhibitions to approach employees with non-technical comments often prevent this by far cheapest form of motivation.
These sort of deficits pop up according to my obsevations over decades more with executives in politics and arts: where performing in the limelight and in the public dominates the job agenda motivation, feedback and internal communication are usually left behind.
Motivating can be trained and exercised perfectly. It is not that difficult, frankly speaking. The problem lies predominantly in a lack of discipline on the side of top management towards their own employees.