How to Raise Employee Motivation and Engagement Using Behavioral Science

Angela Cathey, MA & Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA

Brett DiNovi & Associates

Americans are by current measures chronically disengaged from work. Approximately 40% of workers indicate low motivation or engagement in their work. In a recent video by Brett DiNovi & Associates some of the reasons for these issues are discussed.

One of the primary reasons we see disengagement in work environments is the set-up of work and pay contingencies in the work environment itself. Most employees in America are paid on salary or are paid on an hourly basis. Both of these set up contingencies that reduce employee engagement and effectiveness. Setting up pay on an interval schedule alone (i.e., pay per hour) increases the likelihood that the employee will be ‘killing time.’ This is not the employees fault. It is the natural result of setting time as the only determinant of pay. The employee is being rewarded not for achieving goals, better performance, or any other objective that increases the performance of the company but for having their ‘butt in seat’ a certain number of hours. Over time, this increases the likelihood that even a previously motivated employee will perform more poorly and respond in a more disengaged manner.

This situation is similar in a salary only pay schedule; however, with salaried employees we tend to see engaged and motivated employees punished for effective behavior more often. As motivated and engaged employees enter a work environment where they are paid only based on time passing (e.g., salary) they may tend to take on more work while less engaged employees take on less work and are paid the same. The natural result of this is a loss of engagement and motivation over time. Further, being an effective and motivated worker becomes punished as supervisors and employees will tend to ask more of the effective worker, thus increasing the workload on the motivated worker.

As employers and Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) specialists, we need to take responsibility to set up pay and work environments to support best employee behavior. One way in which we can do this is to set up Pay for Performance arrangements where pay is in large part driven by completion of the goals and behaviors that result in better company performance. Setting up pay such that employees are directly rewarded and frequently rewarded for engaged, effective performance will not only increase employee performance and engagement but improve your bottom line.

Be sure to check out the full video, and to subscribe to Brett DiNovi’s YouTube channel and let him know what you would like to see in future videos.  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

bSci21Media, LLC, owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world,  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog, bSciEntrepreneurial, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.

Brett DinoviBrett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA has the unique and distinguished experience of studying the principles of applied behavior analysis under the rigorous scrutiny of both Dr. Julie S. Vargas (formerly Skinner) and Dr. E.A. Vargas at West Virginia University’s internationally recognized program. For the past 26 years, Brett has used behavior analytic principles to create large scale change across school districts, Fortune 500 companies using principles of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), and across individual learners. Brett has been a OBM consultant in Morgantown WV, an instructor at West Virginia University, a guest lecturer at numerous universities, a speaker on multiple Comcast Newsmakers TV programs, an expert witness in due process hearings, has publications in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and has been in in executive leadership positions across schools and residential programs nationwide. In addition to an award from South Jersey Biz Magazine for “Best Places to Work,” an award for “Best of Families” in Suburban Magazine, and the distinguished “Top Ranked U.S. Executives” award, Brett’s proudest accomplishment is being a role model and father for his daughter and two stepchildren (one of which has autism). Brett can be reached at

*Paid content by Brett DiNovi & Associates.


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