I can take the high ground sometimes. Pontificating about how you should run an incentive and reward program. I can. Really, I can.
But at the end of the day I know something needs to get done. Businesses need to see impact, results – dare I say it… ROI.
And sometimes dong the right thing isn’t the right answer. Sometimes just doing something is better than doing nothing – or even worse – investing in the right thing – and seeing no results. That’s wasting money AND not getting the outcomes you want.
This concept came home to roost yesterday as I reviewed the various articles on incentives and rewards coursing through the veins of the world wide web. A school in Cincinnati is getting some heat for running an incentive program to get kids to show up at school. They offer a $50 gift card to seniors that attend school for a week – underclassmen (or is that underclass people in today’s PC world) get $10 a week (do I smell a 1%-er argument brewing here?)
Some of the comments from the high ground include:
“…Center for Applied Motivation, a Washington-based private consulting agency, referred to the Dohn plan as shortsighted during a Cincinnati Enquirer interview. Director Peter Spevak feels the program offers false motivation and creates a sense of entitlement. Harvard economist Roland Fryer Jr. studied similar programs at urban districts and discovered incentives often help increase attendance and positive behaviors but do not bolster increased academic prowess, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.”
Short-sighted and does not increase academic prowess. Wow.
I find this interesting because the school in question is a “charter” school run by a KIPP – a private foundation. And… the school is, to quote the article – “comprised of primarily low-income and minority students.” I read that as “at risk.”
At risk for not completing high school. At risk of getting into trouble if not in school. At risk of falling victim to the outcomes that typically accompany too much free time and too little oversight.
The program is designed to GET KIDS TO SCHOOL. There is nothing in the design of the program other than that. The school has a problem. Kids aren’t getting educated because… wait for it… because THEY AREN’T THERE!
Those on the moral high ground can talk about how this program doesn’t tap into their self-esteem or their intrinsic desire to learn. And they would be right.
But let me ask this…
Do you think the odds of getting these kids to learn is greater if they are at the school or if they are at home watching MTV (do kids even watch MTV anymore?)
I’m betting that the teachers have a better chance of connecting and helping these kids if they are in the classroom than if they are at the 7-11.
Sure…we’d all like engaged, committed and involved employees. But sometimes the best solution is a simple one – get them to do ONE thing that gives you the opportunity to do 10 more things.
The high ground is a fun place to hang out if you don’t have to get anything done.
Don’t dismiss incentives as bad just because you can’t see the application from all the way up at the top of the ivory tower. They do work.
Originally posted on on Incentive Intelligence