Can stickers motivate your employees?

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    My teenage daughter entered the working world about a year ago. While working in a national fast food chain wasn’t her first choice of occupation, she gladly accepted the position because she saw the opportunities and freedom that could come from having her “own money.” She also became aware during her job search that the positions in which she was really interested required her to be older (she is still a minor) or have some sort of previous experience. So not only would her year at the food chain bring the money she needed to pay her car insurance, it would also give her the experience she needed to move into another position. In her eyes, this isn’t the job she plans to have for five years. In fact, she will most likely leave as soon as she can find a job hosting or waiting tables in a restaurant with a bar so she can eventually move into a bartending position. Her ultimate plan is to follow this path until she graduates from college and moves on the better opportunities.
    Now despite the fact that working at the fast food restaurant isn’t her long-term goal, she has proved to be an efficient and dedicated employee (for the most part). She discovered that she enjoys working with customers very much and that she can handle very busy stressful situations quite well. Recently this ability earned her some recognition during one of her shifts. Our conversation that day went something like this.

    ME: “How was work today?”

    HER: “Good.” (typical teenager response)

    ME: “Good. So, did you work in the drive-thru or the front counter?” (example of my mad digging skills which are required to find out anything about your teenager)

    HER: (sarcastically) “The drive-thru, of course. Oh and because I was able to meet the time goal while working it by myself, I got a ___________ (insert positive recognition sticker or something) so at the end of week, I might be able to win employee of the week and get a fun prize like a sticker or piece of gum.”

    ME: “Well, I think that is cool.”

    HER: (rolling eyes) “I’m seventeen; I don’t care about a sticker or piece of gum.”

    So while she doesn’t care about a sticker or piece of gum at seventeen, she does care about her work environment and how the job fits in to her future goals. She does appreciate that her efforts were noticed. However, she sees rewards a little differently. She still works there because the company works around her schedule with school, social events, and the custody arrangement her father and I share. She also still works there because the job isn’t difficult for her and she enjoys working with people.

    Motivation issues can’t be fixed with stickers and charts. It’s a cultural thing. Look for future posts on the subject of motivation in the coming weeks.

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