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Incentives at Work: Play for Pay

Jun 22, 2008
Probably the most famous incentive is the mouse-maze- cheese experiment where a mouse runs through a maze to find the cheese at its center. The experiment demonstrates that the mouse learns quickly to navigate the maze and remembers the path to the prize. To the mouse, the cheese is worth the trip; it plays for pay. If you have the opportunity to play for pay, here are some tips to help you achieve your goals.


Start at the end-game to make sure you understand the reward and that the reward is something that you want. For most people, money is a great reward and a small change in behavior for a monetary bonus is worth the effort.

For some people, non-monetary rewards are more meaningful like getting a promotion, 4 consecutive days off, or first-in-line for next month's shift selection. The reward must be clearly defined and easy to understand. If you don't understand exactly what the reward is, talk to whoever you need to, to learn more. You won't play if you don't understand the pay.


You won't get the pay if you don't know how to play. Know the rules of the game so you can play to win. The rules need to be very clear and achievable. The rules need to be defined like the examples below:

If I work 3 night shifts this month, Then I will get an extra $15 per hour for every hour that I work

If I work between 5 and 8 shifts this month, Then I will get an extra $25 per shift for every shift that I work

In these examples, the rules are very clear and easy to achieve and the reward is known and desirable.

The best incentive is one that shows a clear path to the reward, not a maze that could take you to a dead-end. Here is an example of the worst kind of incentive:

If I get my documentation done in a timely manner
Then I will be eligible for a portion of the big pool of money that will be divvied up next year

It's hard to play this game because the rules are not well defined and may not be achievable. What is the documentation? What is a timely manner? How much is in that big pool of money. Exactly when is next year? And finally, how many players are there? If the documentation is novel-length and has to be done by the next shift every day for a year and the money at risk is $50,000.00 divided by 500 players, you may not be so motivated for that $100 reward ($65 after taxes) that you will see sometime in the future. It's just not worth it.

Master Your Incentive Plan

Consider yourself fortunate if you have a well-defined and rewarding incentive payment plan. You have the opportunity to work more efficiently, to earn more money, and to influence customer satisfaction through your own personal motivation.

Playing for pay is fun and can improve your whole relationship to w-o-r-k. Get started today to work your incentive plan to find the most direct path to that well-deserved cheese.
About the Author
We have the only commercially available product to calculate complex incentive payments. Our competitors are ED provider groups that have their own home-grown solutions. COREmatica helps to develop and fine-tune a compensation plan and does the heavy-lifting of calculating the payments. See www.incentivesatworknewsletter.com
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