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How Incentive Structures Can Work in the Classroom As well As The Workplace

Guest Author | Will

How Incentive Structures Can Work in the Classroom As well As The Workplace

Incentive structures are controversial in both the classroom and workplace, but there is evidence they can work when implemented properly. Incentives are rewards that are given to students and employees for going above and beyond, and they can be used effectively to promote learning and business growth. They are especially useful for businesses during recessions. Here are a few reasons why incentive structures can work in both the classroom and workplace.

Incentives Can Promote Relationships

Incentives have gained a bad reputation because, if they aren’t used correctly, they can cause turmoil between students or employees. Individual incentive programs create a culture of competition among individuals. That’s fine, but it isn’t usually a great long-term strategy because, inevitably, some students or employees will be viewed as the “losers” of a particular incentive program. If you create a workplace competition for the most individual sales, employees could use immoral techniques to beat others, leading to resentment.

However, group incentive programs can build positive relationships. If you place students or employees into groups and provide a possible reward as an incentive, they must work together to accomplish what they all want. This creates a positive classroom or work atmosphere that can promote team-build and unity. Team incentive structures are perhaps the best way to create cohesion in the classroom or office.

Students and Employees Want to Get Recognized

Make no mistake about it; students and employees want the reward that comes with an incentive program. More than that, however, they covet the recognition and respect that comes with winning. You’d be surprised how much more effective an “Employee of the Month” program can be than cash bonuses. People want to be respected by their peers, and you can utilize that to promote learning and business.

View Incentives as an Investment

Many businesses abandon incentives because they view it as a sunk cost. Since the rewards of an incentive program aren’t necessarily tangible and are hard to link to employees, businesses think they are losing money with them. In reality, incentives are like an investment. You plunk down money in the short-term to acquire larger rewards down the road. If your incentive program is properly run, it should create healthy competition that will lead to more than the cost of the program.

Non-Monetary Incentives Are Valuable

People often covet non-monetary things far more than money because they create a vision. If you provide an employee with a $5,000 vacation for he or she and their family, the perceived worth is often much more than that of $5,000 cash. This is because employees can envision and daydream about the vacation, what they would do on it, and how fun it would be. When they think of money, no such vision immediately pops into their head.

Overall, incentive structures can work well if they are set up properly. Team-building incentive programs can create healthy competition and promote positive relationships, and providing a non-monetary reward is a great way to invest in education or business.

Will writes for a number of businesses including DLPROG the Leadership Development Program based in Australlia. To learn more about their work, read their articles about Human Agency visit

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