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In her book “Mapping The Mind”, Rita Carter (University of California Press) makes the point that, “what you think you want may not be what you need”.

If surveyed, chances are most employees will tell you they want a cash reward, but what they want and what they need to motivate them to increased performance are not necessarily the same thing. It’s why so many incentive programs that offer cash or cash equivalency reward fail to inspire the level of performance expected.  And non cash recognition programs with far smaller budgets get far greater return on investment. Studies suggest cash awards must approach 5% to 15% of the recipient’s annual income for it to be effective for recognition, 5% to 15% before the left brain thinks it’s fair. There can be a significant gap between the value of an award associated with a specific cash value and the recipients perception of what would be a fair reward.

Brain biology is the reason why certain “recognition” efforts may actually end up de-motivating employees. The right brain left brain function explains why when someone gives you a holiday gift  you feel so much better about the gift and the person who gave it to you, then if they gave you a gift card of equal or even greater value. Every time a recipient sees or uses the gift they will remember the giver and the circumstances the reward was given for. Gift cards which are another form of cash, do not have the emotional appeal of a gift of personal value to the recipient, and does not reflect back to the giver, in fact they actually reflects back to the store the gift card eventually may be used at.

For Recognition to be truly effective it should have trophy value, it should remind the recipient of the achievement every time they see or use their awards and reinforce the recipients self-esteem for having earned it.

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Left Brain:

Controls numerical

 & logical functions

It evaluates in

terms of fairness.


Money, and


and any reward with a dollar value attached are processed here.

Right Brain:

Controls emotion, motivation, and the emotional energy for Performance.

Human Motivation and Recognition is

processed here.

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