A participant in one of my recent programmes had an interesting spin on incentivising 'good' behaviour. He called it the Jackpot theory. When coaching youngsters in sports he introduced the possibility that good performers ('good' being defined by whatever behavioural norms you are trying to stimulate) become eligible for a significant prize that will be awarded to only one person on a relatively random frequency. In his experience the desirability of these prizes and their irregularity keeps the youngsters really focused on doing well all the time.
I was pleased to find a business example of this approach in a Financial Times article by Lucy Kellaway: The UK's Royal Mail has adopted just this approach in grappling with their unacceptable attendance levels. "If they show up for work every day for six months, they will be entered for a prize draw and could win a car or a holiday in the sun." Absence levels have plummetted by 15 percent!
The randomness and surprise elements seem to me to add excitement and fun to a subject that many managers agonise over—who to select for recognition! As long as someone worthy gets the prize, the others are always in with a chance for the next big payout! Could this approach be used more widely in organisations that have challenging change agendas (i.e., EVERY organisation)?
[Note from Cathy: Madeleine McGrath is co-founder, with Richard King, of tompeterscompany!UK. They've been working with Tom since 1988.]