IRF Report Details Recommendations for Translating the Neuroscience of Behavioral Economics into Employee Engagement

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The Incentive Research Foundation is pleased to release "Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition: The Neuroscience," an innovative application of scientific findings to employee motivation and rewards. Offering practical C-suite takeaways, the IRF’s report describes the unifying behavioral economic principles connecting the powerful role of emotions with employee performance.

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Rewarding employees intrinsically by treating them better or rewarding them extrinsically with money, trips, or merchandise are treated equally in the brain.

The Incentive Research Foundation is pleased to release "Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition: The Neuroscience," an innovative application of scientific findings to employee motivation and rewards. Offering practical C-suite takeaways, the IRF’s report describes the unifying behavioral economic principles connecting the powerful role of emotions with employee performance.

The report explains how behavioral economics can help employers better understand what motivates employees, because it recognizes the majority of human decision-making is emotional as opposed to rational. Behavioral economics integrates social, cognitive, and emotional factors to more fully explain human decision-making biases. Neuroeconomics provides an additional powerful layer of proof by exploring the biologic underpinnings of decision-making. Technological advances, such a brain-imaging technology, enable researchers to probe the brain in unprecedented detail and are powering an explosion in neuroeconomics research.

“From studies on oxytocin to dopamine to the pre-frontal cortex, there is no shortage of emerging neuroeconomics research on what makes humans tick,” said Melissa Van Dyke, IRF President. “'Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition: The Neuroscience' curates and explains the research so that incentives, rewards, and recognition professionals can use this knowledge to better understand what motivates employees and ultimately create more engaging and productive work environments.”

The most powerful neuroeconomics finding is that all forms of reward are processed in the brain’s master reward center, the striatum, and are experienced as rewarding feelings. This means rewarding employees intrinsically by treating them better or rewarding them extrinsically with money, trips, or merchandise are treated equally in the brain. This important finding supports organizations shifting the emphasis in incentive programs to non-cash rewards to build more effective, fulfilling work environments. Other key takeaways include:

  •          The Halo Effect informs us that more highly positive, emotional experiences increase positive emotion associated with the company.
  •     Emotional Stamps, the markers that help us retrieve the memory, reinforce the necessity for incentive, rewards, and recognition (IRR) programs to tap emotions.
  •     Frequency Bias suggests that the more reward and recognition happens within an organization, the more often it will continue to happen and “feel” like a normal part of business.
  •     Temporal Bias explains why meetings and incentive travel programs should always end on a high, emotional note.
  •     Drive to Bond promotes ensuring each instance of reward and recognition has a face-to-face element.
  •     Drive to Innovate explains why each instance of reward or recognition must help the employee learn the exact behaviors that are valued and important to the organization.

To download the full study, "Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition: The Neuroscience," and the accompanying white paper "Translating the Neuroscience of Behavioral Economics into Employee Engagement," please visit: http://theirf.org/research/translating-the-neuroscience-of-behavioral-economics-into-employee-engagement/2083/

To download the companion study, "Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition: A Nudge Guide," or to download the white paper, "How to Effectively Harness Behavioral Economics to Drive Employee Performance and Engagement," please visit: http://theirf.org/research/how-to-effectively-harness-behavioral-economics-to-drive-employee-performance-and-engagement/2072/

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About the IRF:
The Incentive Research Foundation (TheIRF.org) funds and promotes research to advance the science and enhance the awareness and appropriate application of motivation and incentives in business and industry globally. The goal is to increase the understanding, effective use, and resultant benefits of incentives to businesses that currently use incentives and others interested in improved performance.

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Andy Schwarz
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