Scientification, immune responses, and reflection: The changing relationship between management studies and consulting

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Scientification, immune responses, and reflection: The changing relationship between management studies and consulting

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HR challenge: hoe zorg je voor een verbetering in prestaties?
Oplossing: organizational behavior modification

= gebaseerd op reinforcement theory (bekrachtiging, ~operante conditionering)

= gedrag dat prestatie op positieve manier beïnvloedt, moet bekrachtigd worden, en niet losweg beloond worden.

Pay for Performance

Traditional approach

  • piece-rate systems (blue collars)

  • commissie (sales)

  • bonusses

  • = pay as reward

New Pay for Performance

New techniques that reward in a new way:

  1. Commission, not only according to number of sales
    (e.g. klantentevredenheid)

  2. Reward leadership effectiveness
    (e.g. according employee satisfaction)

  3. Rewarding new goals

  4. Pay for knowledge workers in teams

  5. Skill based pay

  6. Competency based pay

Conclusie vernieuwende aanpak:
Gaat verder dan belonen op basis van het aantal producten verkocht of hoeveelheid inkomsten. Het plaatst een geldelijke beloning op concepten zoals dienstverlening, leiderschap, werknemers tevredenheid, kwaliteit, competenties...

Evidence of the effectiveness of Pay for Performance


Do Rewards Really Work?

Does pay-for-performance really work? Some find positive results, others negative or none.

  1. The detrimental effects of rewards occur under highly restricted, easily avoidable conditions;

  2. Mechanisms of instrumental and classical conditioning are basic for understanding incremental and detrimental effects of reward on task motivation;

  3. Positive effects of rewards on performance are easily attainable using procedures derived from behavioral theory

You Get What You Reinforce

Using reinforcement theory in a workcontext: reinforcing desired working behavior.

Reinforcement Theory

Human behavior = function of contingent (= samenhangende) consequences

Applied in a work setting:
Cues: strategies, leadership, team-based designs...

Desired behavior: task performance

Reinforcers: pay, social recognition, feedback on performance...
‘reinforce, not necessarily reward or pay, for performance’

The O.B. Mod. approach

A easy to implement behavioral framework to identify, analyze and modify employee behavior. It consists of 5 steps (zie schema in artikel):

  1. Identify critical performance related behaviors
    = (~kritische incidenten)

  2. Measure baseline frequencies of critical behavior

  3. Analyse behavioral antecedents and contingent consequences (A -> B -> C)

    1. What are the antecedents of the critical performance-related behavior? (A)
      vb: equipment, technology, job design, training...

    2. What are the contingent consequences? (C)

  4. Intervene to increase frequency of critical behaviors
    = positive reinforcement

    1. financial

    2. non-financial
      = performance feedback; positive, immediate, graphic & specific

    3. social recognition
      = providing verbal or written recognition regarding critical behaviors

    4. combo

  5. Evaluate effectiveness of the model
    = post-test frequencies of desired behavior

Evidentie O.B. Mod.

H1: What was the average treatment effect on task-performance across all examined studies?

H2: Did any variables systematically moderate the relationship between reinforcement contingencies and performance?

  • 17% average improvement in performance
    = more than achieved from goal-setting

  • 2 moderators: type of organisation & type of reinforcement intervention (tabel

    • Type of organisation

      • manufacturing: 33% overall increase; feedback > pay

      • service: 13% overall increase; social recognition > pay > feedback

      • 2 reasons different effectiveness

        • nature of the work

        • accurate assessment

    • Type of reinforcement intervention

      • all 3 significant

      • Combo’s significant, but not necessarily better than using only 1 method
        => not cost-effective to use all 3 reinforcers

      • pay kan gezien worden als een reinforcer maar andere zijn even effectief

      • manufacturing: combo van alle 3 mogelijk

      • service: combo van 2; combo van 3 heeft minder positieve resultaten


  • Pay:

    • can significantly increase performance:

    • may be a reward but not necessarily a reinforcer

  • Feedback and social reinforcers may have as strong an impact on performance as pay

  • Reinforce for performance (instead of pay for performance)

    • pay for performance may not always lead to performance improvement but reinforcing for performance will

Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation

Edwin A. Locke & Gary P. Latham

The authors summarize 35 years of empirical research on goal-setting theory.
Brief History
1950's - 1960's: 'anti-consciousness zeitgeist', the field was dominated by (American) behaviorists. Conscious motivation was not researched and any existing motives were said to be subconscious (e.g. McClelland), leaving introspection to be a non-valid method of studying human motivation.
Mace (1935, British investigator) was the first to examine the effects of different types of goals on task performance.
Ryan (1970) anticipated the cognitive revolution by arguing that conscious purposes, plans, intentions, tasks etc. (which he called 'first level explanatory concepts') were the immediate motivational causes of most human actions.
Goal-setting theory was inductively formulated on the basis of nearly 40 years of research, and is based on Ryan's premise that conscious goals affect action. A goal is the object or aim of an action, usually within a specified time limit. Industrial-organizational psychologists have primarily focused on the effects of goals (and goal aspects) on task performance.
Core findings

  • The highest or most difficult goals produced the highest levels of effort and performance. Performance leveled off or decreased only when the limits of ability were reached or when commitment to a highly difficult goal lapsed.

  • Specific, difficult goals consistently led to higher performance than urging people to do their best. This is because do-your-best goals have no external reference, which allows for a wide range of acceptable performance levels. Insofar as performance is fully controllable, goal specificity reduces variation in performance by reducing the ambiguity about what is to be attained.

Expectancy and Social-Cognitive theories
Vroom's (1964) Valence-instrumentality-expectancy theory states that the force to act is a multiplicative combination of:

  • Valence: anticipated satisfaction

  • Instrumentality: the belief that performance will lead to rewards

  • Expectancy: the belief that effort will lead to the performance needed to attain the rewards

Other factors being equal, expectancy is said to be linearly and positively related to performance. However, because difficult goals are harder to attain than easy goals, expectancy of goal success would presumably be negatively related to performance.
This seems to contradict goal-setting theory. This contradiction is resolved by distinguishing expectancy within versus expectancy between goal conditions. Researchers found that when goal levels is held constant (within; this is implicitly assumed by valence-instrumentality-expectancy theory), higher expectancies lead to higher levels of performance. Across goal levels (between), lower expectancies, associated with higher goal levels, are associated with higher performance.
Social-cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986, 1997) defined self-efficacy as task-specific confidence. It is important in goal-setting theory because:

  • Self set goals are set higher by people with higher self-efficacy compared to people with lower self-efficacy.

  • People with high self-efficacy are more committed to assigned goals, they find and use better task strategies to attain the goals and respond more positively to negative feedback.

Goal Mechanisms
Goals affect performance through 4 mechanisms:

  • Directive function: goals direct attention (both cognitively and behaviorally) toward goal-relevant activities and away from goal-irrelevant activities.

  • Energizing function: high goals lead to greater effort than low goals.

  • Goals affect persistence: hard goals prolong effort. There is however a trade-off between time and intensity of effort (one works more intensely during shorter period of time or less intensely during longer period of time)

  • Goals affect action indirectly by leading to the arousal, discovery and/or use of task-relevant knowledge and strategies. The following has been found:

  • People automatically use the knowledge and skills they have already acquired, that are relevant to goal attainment.

  • People draw from a repertoire of skill that they have used previously in related contexts.

  • If the task is new, people will engage in deliberate planning to develop strategies that will enable them to attain their goals.

  • People with high self-efficacy are more likely to develop effective task strategies.

  • When confronted with tasks that are complex to them, urging people to do their best sometimes leads to better strategies than setting a specific difficult performance goal. In these tasks, setting specific goals can create evaluative pressure and performance anxiety. Instead, one can set specific challenging learning goals.

  • Performance improves when people who are given high-performance goals (compared to other types of goals) are trained in the proper strategies. If people use inappropriate strategies, however, a difficult performance-outcome goal leads to worse performance than an easy goal.


  • Goal Commitment: The goal-performance relationship is strongest when people are committed to their goals. Commitment is most important and relevant when goals are difficult. Two key factors that help goal commitment:

  • Importance of attaining the goal. Things that can help make the goal more important:

  • Make a public commitment (make your goals known)

  • Leaders communicate an inspiring vision and behave supportively

  • Allow subordinates to participate in setting the goals (the primary benefit of participation in decision is cognitive, in that it stimulates information exchange)

OR make sure to clearly give the purpose or rationale for a given goal (giving a goal without any explanation leads to worse performance).

  • Monetary incentives

  • Self-efficacy enhances goal commitment. Things that can help increase self-efficacy:

  • Provide adequate training to increase mastery that provides success experiences

  • Persuasive communication that expresses confidence that the person can attain the goal

  • Feedback: for goals to be effective, people need summary feedback that reveals progress in relation to their goals. When people find they are below target, they normally increase their effort or try out a new strategy. Summary feedback is a moderator of goal effects in that the combination of goals plus feedback is more effective than goals alone.

  • Task Complexity: goal effects are dependent on the ability to discover appropriate task strategies. Because people vary greatly in their ability to do this, the effect size for goal setting is smaller on complex than on simple tasks.

  • Because people use a greater variety of strategies on tasks that are more complex than on simpler tasks, measures of task strategy often correlate more highly with performance than do measures of goal difficulty.

  • There are often goal-strategy interactions, with goal effects strongest when effective strategies are used.

Personal goals as mediators of external incentives
Personal goals, including goal commitment and self-efficacy are often the most immediate, conscious and motivational determinants of action. As such, they can mediate the effects of external incentives.
e.g. assigned goal effects are mediated by personal or self-set goals people choose in response to the assignment, as well as by self-efficacy. Observe that the assignment of a challenging goal alone raises self-efficacy (serves as an implicit expression of confidence in the employee).

Goals are also an object to aim for and therefore a standard for judging satisfaction or dissatisfaction. To say that one is trying to attain X means that one will not be satisfied unless one attains X. Exceeding the goal creates increased positive discrepancy, while not reaching the goal creates increased negative discrepancy.

People with high goals produce more because they are dissatisfied with less. The bar for their satisfaction is set at a high level. This is why they are motivated to do more than those with easy goals. Reaching higher goals are thought to come with many positive psychological and practical outcomes. Setting specific challenging goals is also a means of enhancing task interest and of helping people to discover the pleasurable aspects of an activity.

e.g. in the study of Mento et al. (1992) students reported four beneficial outcomes they expected as a result of having a grade point average of A vs. B vs. C. (instrumentality; these expected outcomes are higher for grade A). The expected satisfaction with performance (achievement valence) showed the opposite pattern.

Practical Applications

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  • Identify
  • Intervene
  • Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation
  • Goal-setting theory
  • Expectancy and Social-Cognitive theories Vrooms (1964) Valence-instrumentality-expectancy theory
  • Goal Mechanisms Goals affect performance through 4 mechanisms: Directive
  • Moderators Goal Commitment
  • Personal goals as mediators of external incentives

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