Managerial Recognition as an Incentive for Innovation Platform Engagement: A Field Experiment and Interview Study at NASA
Posted: 19 Nov 2019 Last revised: 1 Dec 2019
Date Written: November 12, 2019
Incentivizing employees to engage with novel innovation mechanisms and contribute to collective problem-solving can be difficult. We run a field experiment with NASA (N=11,192) to study two widely used classes of non-financial incentives: recognition (of managers, peers, online platform participants), and the prospect of advancing the organizational mission. Our analysis shows that managerial recognition has a significant positive effect on employees’ engagement with the problem-solving platform. The other incentives are not found to be effective. A follow-up interview study suggests that (1) managerial recognition works through signaling the platform’s legitimacy in a context of uncertainty, as well as through offering managerial attention and appreciation; (2) recognition interacts with workers’ job proximity to the organization’s mission and can be particularly motivating for workers with distant job functions; (3) organizations where the appeal of the organizational mission is already strong may face difficulties in using the mission as an instrumental incentive.
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