MOTIVATION with a SCARF twist The SCARF (an acronym for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness) model, a brilliant gift of neuroscience invented by Dr. David Rock, is an interesting tool to understand an individual’s social behavior in a group. The model is broadly based on two themes, “Minimizing threat, Maximizing reward” & “Correlating several social experiences to primary social needs”. Knowing the SCARF model aids to understanding the drivers that cause a threat or beget a reward response thus enabling an individual to implement the optimized interaction path with others.
Though the other two articles on “Managing the brain” (also sketching out the SCARF model) and “Six thinking hats” were fairly interesting reads, but reading about the SCARF model really grabbed my attention since I was now able to correlate a lot of management techniques/decisions I have seen in the past to this model. Motivation strategies and the SCARF model have a close tie. Typically motivation is aimed at bringing about some form of reward response from the individual(s).
I have sketched a few ‘low-cost’ motivation techniques Organizations may implement during economic turmoil, relating them to the threat and reward responses of the SCARF model. 1. Communication: Threat: Uncertainty – During economic downtimes many Employees fear uncertainty. There is a baseline fear of losing jobs, taking salary cuts or being transferred to other departments. Reward Response: Motivating Employees using the ‘open communication’ tool, giving them the reward response of certainty, minimizes this threat.
If an Organization chooses to throttle increments, bonuses or promotions it becomes imperative to clearly communicate its rationale to the Employees. Employees always appreciate a transparent management style in matters that directly impact them. 2. Leadership: Threat: Autonomy – During low performing quarters Organizations do not want to go wrong anywhere. This fear is at times is converted to micro management, increased rigidity in rules and a so called “Authoritarian” behavior which is perceived my the Employees as a threat to their autonomy Reward Response: Motivating Employees during these tough times can become even more critical.
Targeting Employee strengths and assigning project ownership accordingly can help reduce this threat. Giving the Employees an opportunity to avail of flexi-time can also create autonomy. 3. Appreciation: Threat: Status – In a disturbed economy Organizations face budgetary restrictions thereby making tough decisions of promoting only a handful of Employees. But what about the rest? They too have worked as hard as the others. These Employees certainly face a status threat in the Organization. Reward Response: Employers should take time to appreciate good work.
Appreciation can be done verbally during team meetings or via e-mail, marking a copy to the entire Department. A simple but meaningful “thank you” via e-mail can prove to be a very effective motivation tool. Employees feel internally rewarded and motivated when they know their work is valued and recognized in the Organization. 4. Low cost events: Threat: Relatedness – Organizations tend to become very competitive during a tough economy. People are faced with competition within the Organization.
Often Employees are shuffled between departments to optimize the productivity. People who move to the new departments often face the threat to relatedness, as they in turn are perceived as a threat to the existing members of the department. Information sharing with the new members could be limited. Reward Response: In this situation an Organization should dedicate some time to conduct low cost events to increase the organizational citizenship behavior (going beyond the call of duty) not only inside departments but also outside departments. E. . : Have a ballot box in the office and encourage people to thank each other for any activity from which the other person benefitted (not directly related to work) for e. g. “Thank you Mary for sharing the sales figures for last month, this helped me come up with the forecasts quicker than expected. ” Every Friday call for a “Thanks giving event” where these papers are read out in front of the organization and each one gets small rewards like chocolates, donuts, pens etc. This will increase the reward response for relatedness and status. 5.
Performance Based Pay: Threat: Fairness: It is a challenge for the Employers to be fair in terms of the financial rewards given to the Employees. An Employee often gets demotivated when he/she hears that their colleagues are being paid more than him/her especially when they feel that they are putting in more effort and yielding a greater result for the department. Reward response: To curtail this threat to fairness an Organization should have a transparent performance based pay structure. This structure should be known to every Employee to beget transparency.
Finally I would like to say that motivating Employees is important for every Employer, at all times. An Organization does not need to invest in expensive trainings, huge increments or even arranging extravagant holiday packages in order to motivate its Employees. Motivation has a strong negative correlation to the threats that an Employees faces in an Organization and if those threats are identified correctly and mitigated using the SCARF principles the overall productivity can be tremendously boosted.