HOW CAN MANAGERS in high-turnover industries keep their people motivated? Some answers can be found in the latest research by the SITE Foundation, titled “Motivation in the Hospitality Industry.” The survey of employees in the fast-food and hotel industries revealed how important it is for employers to create an environment in which people feel good about their jobs.

For example, the study found a 17.5 percent lower turnover rate at companies at which employees felt supported by their managers.

The survey measured key indices of motivation, using the Commitment And Necessary Effort model: choice, persistence, and effort. CANE is widely recognized in the human resources field. The survey results will be used to create the SITE Motivation Index, a tool for companies that want to better understand the effect of employee motivation on business results.

Also new from the SITE Foundation is a white paper about the benefits of nonmonetary incentives versus cash incentives. The writers analyzed four psychological processes that influence — and often increase — winners' perceptions of noncash awards. The first, “evaluability,” has to do with people's reaction to incentives — what they think of when winning a trip to Hawaii, for example (beautiful beaches, good weather, etc.). The authors found that this way of thinking actually makes people put a higher value on travel than it is worth.

The second process, called “separability,” has to do with the way people mentally categorize both paychecks and bonuses as income. This makes them want to use a cash bonus to pay bills rather than to buy something they want.

A third mental process, “justifiability,” is how winners rationalize spending money. If a trip is earned for hard work and participants must “use it or lose it,” there is no reason to justify it. In their minds, the harder they work, the more valuable the noncash award.

Social reinforcement, the final process, is the recognition winners get from peers, supervisors, family, and friends. People won't brag about a cash bonus, but will enjoy talking about a new set of golf clubs or an exotic trip. This “trophy value” enhances the perceived value of the award.

The white paper concluded that for noncash incentives to be motivating, planners need to make them truly special — something the participants couldn't justify doing themselves, or an experience they could never create on their own. This in turn will increase the value of the award in the winners' eyes, and they will step up their efforts to win.