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With most ailments like the common cold, you usually know exactly what to do. When you have a sore throat, you gargle with salt water. If you have a cold, nothing works better than Mom’s chicken soup. But what if you’re struggling with something that’s a little more complex?
Take a moment to consider the New Year’s resolutions you eagerly set for yourself at the beginning of this year. Remember that vision of a “new you” you saw parading in your mind?
Now flash forward to the present. Have you been hitting the gym, sticking to your diet plan, and spending more time with your family and friends? If so, good for you. That’s quite a feat. But if not... congratulations! You have a normally functioning response to negatively framed goals. Your neurological pathways for behavior change (or lack thereof) are right on track.
New Year’s resolutions, like many goals we aspirationally set for ourselves, focus on change from an undesired state or behavior to an ideal one. Although we may strive for self-improvement, it’s not as simple as just deciding that we want to be healthier, more generous, and well-balanced people. This process of setting ideals, but failing to reach them is an agonizing, yet very common one.
As an employer, it’s important to understand why you may be seeing performance outcomes by your employees that don’t match your (or likely their) ideals. Just as we all struggle with executing our New Year’s resolutions, employees can also have a hard time reaching their aspirations in the workplace. This is part of the bigger issue that humans can sometimes be our own barriers to achievement and change.
So how can you help employees make real, effective changes to their lives? Read on for a few ideas!
If you’ve ever been offered a bonus for hitting a certain number of sales or promised yourself a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream for sweating on the StairMaster, you understand the power of extrinsic motivation.
Using an external reward to promote a desired behavior works well for getting people to try something new or complete a one-off task. But it definitely has its limitations.
Take corporate wellness programs, for instance. Most are structured to provide incentives that encourage participation. If employees visit the gym a certain number of times per month or walk 10,000 steps a day, they’re rewarded with cash bonuses, gift cards, or other prizes.
On the surface, this is a smart investment for employers. Done right, workplace health programs result in increased productivity, diminished healthcare costs, and lower absenteeism. Plus, research shows that exercise supports the creation of new brain cells and can even activate parts of the brain responsible for memory retention.
It’s not easy to get great ROI from a corporate wellbeing program, but the first step in that direction is getting people engaged. Before you invest all those dollars in rewards, make sure you’re not relying too much on extrinsic motivation and ignoring the hidden power of intrinsic motivation.