Perhaps you never thought of human resource management and neuroscience in the same sentence. But new advanced from the neuroscience field are challenging old assumptions about worker and workplace motivation.
One new model, thanks to advancements in neuroscience, is the SCARF model. The model challenges the way we have thought about motivation in the past, and provides new truths about the workings of the mind and how companies should go about establishing effective cultures.
“With the burgeoning field of neuroscience and advanced tools like functional magnetic resonance imaging, there is scientific evidence that the source of motivation is all in the head,” writes Kimberly Schaufenbuel, program director for UNC Executive Development, in Motivation on the Brain – Applying the Neuroscience of Motivation in the Workplace.
Her research paper provides advice on how HR can take advantage of new models of motivation. (See related blog: HR’s New Challenge: Optimizing the Brain)
The SCARF Model of Motivation
The SCARF model ― a combination of motivational theory and neuroscience ― was developed by David Rock, the director of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work. The model provides HR professionals with new ideas on improving organization-wide motivation.
Rock’s research shows how dopamine is one of the primary chemicals that our brains produce to decide when we feel a sense of reward or punishment. He demonstrates how, based on chemical reactions, the human brain is hardwired to respond to five key social needs or domains:
“While the five domains of the SCARF model appear to be interlinked in many ways,” Rock notes, “there is also value in separating out and understanding each domain individually.”
Five Motivational Drivers
The following are some highlights from Rock’s research paper, valuable insights for HR and for managers in general:
Embracing the Softer Side
“Understanding these drivers can help individuals and organizations to function more effectively, reducing conflicts that occur so easily amongst people, and increasing the amount of time people spend in the approach state, a concept synonymous with good performance,” Rock concludes.
HR must consider the “social aspects” of the brain and human behavior when adopting new policies and organizational structures. HR managers can also help leaders and managers understand the impact their actions may have on status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness. The SCARF model provides new ways to think about motivation as much more than a business transaction. SCARF suggests that people transactions count for a lot and, if ignored, can undermine even the best business strategies.
HR professionals are urged to learn more about emerging models such as SCARF. Such research is likely to have a big impact on future HR best practices.