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Carrot and Stick

30 October, 2015 - 15:15

It is unknown for sure where this term was first used, although some believe it was coined in the 1700s during the Seven Years’ War. In business today, the stick approach refers to “poking and prodding” to get employees to do something. The carrot approach refers to the offering of some reward or incentive to motivate employees. Many companies use the stick approach, as in the following examples:

  • If you don’t increase your sales by 10 percent, you will be fired.
  • Everyone will have to take a pay cut if we don’t produce 15 percent more than we are currently producing.

As you can see, the stick approach takes a punitive look at retention, and we know this may motivate for a short period of time, but not in the long term.

The carrot approach might include the following:

  • If you increase sales by 10 percent, you will receive a bonus.
  • If production increases by 15 percent, the entire team will receive an extra day off next month.

The carrot approach takes a much more positive approach to employee motivation but still may not be effective. For example, this approach can actually demotivate employees if they do not feel the goal is achievable. Also, if organizations use this as the only motivational technique, ignoring physiological rewards such as career growth, this could be a detriment as well. This approach is used as a retention method, usually as part of a compensation plan.

All the employee satisfaction theories we have discussed have implications for the development of our retention plans and reduction of turnover. These theories can be intertwined into the specific retention strategies we will implement. This is discussed in Section 7.3.1 "Salaries and Benefits".