What motivates people to do the work expected of them?

Because I do a lot of my work in training, coaching and consulting, I often ask myself how you get people to do the work, so I thought today we could look at an individual case and then discuss some of the factors that contribute to performance.

 Basically, the questions you must ask when determining why some desired behavior is not evident is, “why would anyone want to do this?”  Or, “what might be bothering the individual that he doesn’t seem to want to do this?”

 Whenever I do a needs assessment for sales training, I interview salespeople so I can learn how they sell now.  As you know, effective selling involves asking questions of customers about needs.  I am no longer surprised when I learn that banks employ many people in sales positions who will freely admit that they hate asking questions of customers. 

 Let’s look at an example that retail banks deal with, requiring tellers to make referrals. The following text was part of an internet posting from a college student and her summer job as a teller.

 “I spent this summer working at X Bank as a teller and the responsibilities I had greatly surprised me.  Not only did I have to run transactions ten hours a day, but I was also expected to run coin through the coin machine, record and process the night depository transactions, answer phones, and submit check order forms on an on-line database.  And, in addition to ALL of this, I was expected to get “referrals”.  Referrals occur when the teller suggests to a customer that he consider a credit card, an expanded account, an ATM card, or any other of the banking products we offer.  To say the least, this is every teller’s worst nightmare.

 In June, I managed to get a single referral.  Personally, I could have cared less if I even got that one referral.  (The referral I got was from my mom!)  However, the bank did care that the teller referrals were exceptionally low.  Not only was our performance impacting the business of the bank, but our entire office missed our monthly goals.  The manager of the bank and the teller supervisor met for several hours and the next day, things began to change.

 In order to increase productivity, the leaders of the bank recognized they had to use some sort of reinforcement to encourage achievement.  Our teller supervisor invented a contest entitled “What’s the Scoop?” in which each teller received a construction paper “scoop” of ice cream for each referral initiated.  Igniting the competitive drive in me, I became determined to “win” the contest.  In addition to having personal goals, the teller line had a team goal, and our location had an office goal.  It was important that these goals were both realistic and specific.

 As reinforcement, my supervisor used secondary reinforcers and positive reinforcement.  At the end of the first month, the teller line referral count had gone from a handful to over 40.  I am proud to say that I was responsible for over half of those referrals.  The positive reinforcement I received included praise, attention, and money.  Because of their awareness of the influence of reinforcers, the bank utilized their knowledge of operant behavior to increase the efficiency of the tellers and the success of the entire bank.”

 What conclusions can you draw from this overview of the referral process, from almost no referrals to over 40 per month?  On Friday we’ll examine the factors that influenced the change. What are your thoughts?

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

2 Responses to What motivates people to do the work expected of them?

  1. Tim Connell says:

    Another thought provoking piece Gregory. I’m always interested to see how much crossover there is between your work with adults and what I see in schools.
    The scenario you have published here is a great example of that.
    The extension of this type of behaviour modification, at least for students,is a move away from a need for extrinsic motivators towards intrinsic or self generated motivation. This precludes the need for group contingency, competitive type systems which don’t always resonate with everyone.
    In the case of young people in schools, and by extension people in banks etc, intrinsic motivation will grow with relevance and relationships. When companies and schools spend time building quality relationships with employees and explicitly outlining the value of their products, intrinsic motivation is built. And the advantage it will always have is that it’s individual and portable, it has real meaning for each person and goes with them
    into every area of their, and the company’s lives.
    Happy new year and good running!
    Best wishes,

    • Thanks so much Tim. Very insightful and helpful to see adult behavior contrasted with how younger people learn and adapt. On Friday I’m going to parse some of the issues. Hope you’ll contribute if you see something that strikes you. g.

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