One key factor in achieving early engagement in an employee recognition or sales incentive program is often overlooked – dedicating a small portion of your budget for enrollment or activation in the program. This does not have to be a substantial monetary investment, but simply a little something to get the participant started while reinforcing to them that you recognize their time is valuable and you are willing to compensate them for it. This should not be treated as a meaningless add-on either, because participants who start with a little currency are 15% more likely to participate in the program moving forward, which means they are engaging in the behavior that you would like them to focus on.
This phenomenon – known as the Endowed Progress Effect – is detailed by Joseph C. Nunes and Xavier Dreze via their research document entitled “The Endowed Progress Effect: How Artificial Advancement Increases Effort,” from the Journal of Consumer Research, Inc., Volume 32, March 2006. From the study:
“…people provided with artificial advancement toward a goal exhibit greater persistence toward reaching the goal. By converting a task requiring eight steps into a task requiring 10 steps but with two steps already complete, the task is reframed as one that has been undertaken and incomplete rather than not yet begun. This increases the likelihood of task completion and decreases completion time. The effect appears to depend on perceptions of task completion rather than a desire to avoid wasting the endowed progress.”
Secondarily, you are training the participant to “expect” something in exchange for them doing something moving forward. It is also important to understand that this reinforcement should not be limited to the initial enrollment or activation in the program. Additional tools such as online quizzes and surveys as well as “on the spot” awards can also be utilized to reenergize a stale participant base.