Work Above the Bull: Name Your Price

NetTALKS_942x255by Brenda Gevertz

250 participants joined together for the first NetTalks Alumni Engagement webinar from the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Schusterman Philanthropic Network. The webinar, “From Love to the Workplace: Lessons on Human Motivation,” afforded us the opportunity to hear from Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. Professor Ariely’s Ted Talk has been viewed 5 million times and he’s written New York Times’ best sellers, no easy task for non-fiction. With an informal style and dress, it would be easy to question his findings as doubtful, so his references to research were well placed and, if fact, quite entertaining.

His findings are well worth consideration for those of us doing engagement work (aren’t we all?). And, here is where behavioral economics comes into it. Excellence in performance is not just tied to money. In fact, it may not be a motivating factor at all if it’s not a significant amount. We can be motivated by meaning, social standing, competition, or a sense of accomplishment. In fact, any number of things can motivate an individual. This is not to say that money isn’t a motivating factor, but in differing amounts and in varying situations, it may not be a sufficient incentive.

Case in point: you may be satisfied with your salary yet so demoralized by feeling unappreciated and without growth opportunities that a small pay increase is not going to motivate you to excel. JCSA has given a lot of attention to the $54,000 Strategy and, truth be told, it’s not just about the money.

Part of our task is to figure out what motivates individuals to be involved, to keep people engaged so their participation becomes a habit, becomes routine. Habit, Professor Ariely emphasized, is an ally of human behavior. Of course we want to advocate for appropriate pay and benefits on a professional scale that supports Jewish life, but it’s not going to be sufficient on its own. We are tasked with giving meaning, recognition, growth opportunities and other incentives to engage a dynamic and exemplary work force. The Jewish community has an abundance of talented younger career professionals – what will it take to retain them? Yes, we likely have in mind what we are worth and want, and we should be paid appropriately. But pay alone will not sustain our desire and ability to grow professionally.

What motivates you? During Professor Ariely’s presentation, many participants tweeted their thoughts, including: “Don’t give volunteers demotivating $ incentives, but provide meaningful gift that strengthen social ties w/your org” and “Social good is stronger than financial good. Relevance #2: How to motivate good teaching? Dream with them abt students’ futures”.

Join the Schusterman Philanthropic Network and Jim Joseph Foundation for #NetTalks, a free, five-part webinar series for Jewish professionals who want to tap into the power and potential of alumni networks!

Register here to join Beth Kanter for the next webinar on January 8th. The topic of her presentation is “Leveraging Social Media to Engage and Inspire Your Alumni Network”.

Brenda Gevertz is executive director of the Jewish Communal Service Association of North America.

A version of this piece on the #NetTalks: Alumni Engagement Webinar Series ran originally in the recent eNews of the Jewish Communal Service Association of North America.