A good friend forwarded the following video. It was very intriguing. I encourage you to watch the full ten minutes. The ideas have implications on how we “reward or don’t reward” kids or volunteers. I’m not sure why, but we are always super quick to offer treats and rewards for specific behaviors. It’s like we’re all wired to do it. However, is it possible that rewards are harmful? According the this research, yes they can be. According to the research, rewards given for tasks that only involve mechanical skills (no higher thinking or creativity) increase productivity. The more the reward, the higher the productivity. However, any taks that involved even rudimentary cognitive skill, the higher the reward, the lower the performance. If this research is true, rewards don’t produce the outcome you want for tasks that require thinking.

They found that if you don’t pay people enough, they won’t be motivated. But, if you can pay them enough to take the issue of money off the table, they are motivated entirely by three different factors:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

When I watched this video, I immediately thought of high level volunteers who give a lot to our ministries. I’m amazed by the people who give 10, 20 or more hours a week in serving in ministry as a volunteer. Many of us on staff don’t always know what to do with this. At times we feel that we need to find a way to bring them on staff or reward them for all their work. On the flip side, we have positions where we feel we can’t get anyone to do as a volunteer, so we immediately begin looking to throw money at it.

I’m not saying that you don’t make a person feel valued. It’s good to let them know that you love them and that you appreciate them immensely, but feeling guilty that they’re not getting paid for what they do isn’t the right way to go. We have to remember that most of these people aren’t volunteering their time like they are in hopes of a reward. Perhaps it has something to do with autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Even in thinking about those positions we’re having a a tough time filling with a volunteer, is there a way to incorporate autonomy, mastery and purpose so that the position looks attractive and desirable?

I’d be curious about your thoughts.