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The Final Word by Chuck Swann

In previous encounters, I related to you how a mentor of mine a long time ago explained to me that human behavior is motivated by what are called the "Four S's." They are appeals to one's status, sense of security, savings and sex. Many professionals who study the psychology of normal persons believe that no one ever does anything for any reason other than one or more of these appeals.

In the first article in this series, we took a look at status appeals as affirmations of ourselves as persons of worth. Next, we talked about our sense of security--how things that make us feel secure and comfortable affect our behavior and our decision-making. Today, let's talk about how we are motivated by the third S, savings, which is the appeal to our innate desire to gain goodies, including paychecks and possessions, at no cost if possible.

Not long ago, a full-page newspaper ad caught my attention with the word FREE as its vividly blazoned headline. The "free" was a 27-LED portable worklight and flashlight--free with any purchase. I decided that now was as good a time as any to buy that small chisel I had been wanting for one of my arcane hobbies, so I tore out the coupon and went to the hardware store. I got the chisel--which I needed--and the battery-powered worklight--which I did not need. Actually, this supposedly $6.99 value is little more than a toy, but I got it FREE. And the word "free" is one of the most powerful words in advertising. Everybody wants something for nothing!

The next proof of my innate acquisitiveness happened in the grocery store. Dispatched by the general manager of this household to buy a loaf of bread, my attention was captured by a placard on the shelf of one brand of bread that read "buy one, get one free." The merchandising tactic of buy one, get one is now even abbreviated in the culture as "BOGO." Everybody loves BOGOs. Everybody loves acquiring something without cost.

How does this relate to managing mill workers? Ponder the word "incentives." An incentive is a reward for doing something well. Possible incentives range from T-shirts to travel, from bonuses to banquets. Incentives are any and all rewards that can be offered both to individuals and/or to work teams for improving efficiency, accuracy and productivity. The appeal to workers of incentives is that they are FREE! There we go again with that most powerful word.

The paychecks for which we all labor are certainly at the top of the list of incentives that keep us moving on, showing up on time and doing our work well. But management should not believe that paychecks alone are the only incentive workers have for improved performance. After all, they earn their paychecks. What new and interesting--but low-cost--rewards can management design to stimulate employee interest in and enthusiasm about making those improvements in efficiency, accuracy and productivity?

The most effective incentives are things that we can hold in our hands, things that cannot be consumed or spent. A turkey will be eaten and forgotten at Thanksgiving, cash will be spent and not remembered long. Tangible incentives remind us over and over that we got this goody without cost. They exert a lasting appeal to the treasure hunter that lives within each of us.

Chuck Swann is the editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at chuck.swann@taii.com.


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