Staff Engagement – Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivators for Long Term Success

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To put it bluntly, people rarely do things they don’t see the personal value in doing. If they do things they don’t want to because they are required to do them, they stop as soon as they can.

Anyone who has spent any time working in Wraparound or MiiWrap knows the importance of engagement. To put it bluntly, people rarely do things they don’t see the personal value in doing. If they do things they don’t want to because they are required to do them, they stop as soon as they can. We understand this for parents trying to quit drinking, for kids skipping school, and even for our community partners like case workers or parole officers collaborating on wraparound teams.

But for supervisors often have different expectations for staff. We think that they will just do their jobs the way we tell them whether or not they really believe.

Many a coach has been burned by this assumption. Their staff jump through all the training hoops, pass the assessments for the training and then go about their work with families with little oversight. A staff member who is well engaged in MiiWrap will keep doing the work as long as they get good feedback and support. A staff member who is not engaged in MiiWrap will revert back to whatever they believe in (often some form of case management).

That means that we absolutely have to make sure our staff are engaged with the MiiWrap process if we want them doing high fidelity MiiWrap with families. The question becomes, how do we do that?

The first round of answers to that question usually involve incentives and punishments. These are classic extrinsic motivators.

Quick Review: Extrinsic motivation is motivation based on an outside force. If you offer a reward for doing something right, or a punishment for doing something wrong, you are creating extrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivators are relatively easy to create, and they can be good motivation jump starters. The problem is that extrinsic motivation only lasts as long as the motivators do, and the motivation is to get or avoid the extrinsic influence not to do good MiiWrap.  Once the reward scheme ends, or the live observation slows down, they will drift back to where they wanted to be without the extrinsic motivation.

We need to try another approach to supporting motivation – something that changes the way they think when no one is watching. We need intrinsic motivation. 

Quick Review: Intrinsic motivation is motivation based on internal thoughts and feelings. When someone does something because they believe it is the right thing to do, or because they believe it is the thing that will benefit them most, they are acting on intrinsic motivation.

Real engagement to MiiWrap involves coming to truly understand that MiiWrap can help families in ways and at levels that other services cannot. True believers will do MiiWrap no matter the obstacles, because they believe deep down that it is the right thing to do. The thing that creates the most long-term success for them and their clients. This kind of intrinsic motivation cannot be forced or mandated. It is harder to create. But it is so much more valuable.

How do you create real engagement with MiiWrap? The same ways you create it for families in MiiWrap. By helping them understand why it works. By helping them generate quick successes to build on. And by creating a trusting and collaborative relationship where they feel comfortable learning together with you.

Extrinsic motivation is relatively easy, but short lasting and not always effective.  Intrinsic motivation is more difficult to create, and takes much longer. But it can last much longer and spread from staff to staff.   If maintained, it creates changes in staff actions down to the molecular level well below the things you see.

This is why we use a two-prong approach. Start the intrinsic motivation talks from day one, but realize they will take time to bloom. Supercharge your efforts by introducing extrinsic motivators at the beginning and in times of program stress. These motivators help provide a boost and create quick course correction possibilities. 

Either way, never depend on unengaged staff to provide high fidelity MiiWrap. It’s just not going to happen. And the big losers will be the families you work with.

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