Incentive System

The term incentive system refers to a variety of fields, including biology, education and philosophy.

Organisational psychology, Economics and Business

In organisational psychology, economics and business an incentive system denotes a structure motivating individuals as part of an organization to act in the interest of the organization.[1]

A fundamental requirement of creating a working incentive system for individuals and the organization is understanding human behavior and motivators of human behavior.[2][3] Relevant theories helping to understand human behavior include utility theory, principal-agent theory, need hierarchy theory, two factor theory, cognitive evaluation theory, expectancy theory, goal-setting theory, and equity theory.[3] The many determinants influencing human judgment and decision making highlights the complexity of understanding human behavior. Bonner grouped them into Knowledge and personal involvement, cognitive processes, task variables and environmental variables, abilities, intrinsic motivation and other person variables.[3][4]

Elements that are part of an incentive system:

  • Monetary Compensation (e.g. variable, fixed, budget-based bonuses)
  • Non-monetary Compensation (e.g. gifts, company car, company insurance)
  • Targets (e.g. easy, difficult, stretch)
  • Career Prospects (e.g. promotion, termination of contract)
  • Reputational Considerations (e.g. praise, awards, status, wider recognition in society, positive impact of job)
  • Meaningfulness of Tasks (job rotation, job enrichment, enlargement)

Important effects induced by an incentive system are: an incentive effect and a sorting effect. Incentive effects are direct effects resulting from the incentive system improving performance. Sorting effects are rather indirect effects. They describe particular incentive systems attract individuals with particular characteristics. For instance, variable, rather than fixed, compensation tends to attract individuals with higher skill levels and lower control believes (locus of control).[5][6][7]


  1. ^ Design of Incentive Systems - Experimental Approach | Dennis D. Fehrenbacher | Springer.
  2. ^ Schneider, B. (1987). The people make the place. Personnel psychology, 40(3), 437-453.
  3. ^ a b c Fehrenbacher, Dennis D. (2013-01-01). Design of Incentive Systems - Chapter 2: An Integrative Framework of Influences on Behavior (PDF). Contributions to Management Science. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. pp. 13-29. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-33599-0_2. ISBN 9783642335983.
  4. ^ Bonner, S. E. (2008). Judgment and decision making in accounting. Prentice Hall.
  5. ^ Waller, W. S., & Chow, C. W. (1985). The self-selection and effort effects of standard-based employment contracts: A framework and some empirical evidence. Accounting Review, 458-476.
  6. ^ Chow, C. W. (1983). 1983 Competitive Manuscript Award: The Effects of Job Standard Tightness and Compensation Scheme on Performance: An Exploration of Linkages. Accounting Review, 667-685.
  7. ^ Fehrenbacher, Dennis D.; Kaplan, Steven E.; Pedell, Burkhard (2017-03-01). "The relation between individual characteristics and compensation contract selection". Management Accounting Research. 34: 1-18. doi:10.1016/j.mar.2016.06.001.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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