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• We examine effects on safety related behavior associated with staff bonus systems.
• Qualitative interviews were performed at Swedish nuclear power plants.
• Deficiencies in enhancing motivation but no indication of increased risk taking
• Safety behaviors promoted insofar as reward is linked to safety performance goals.
• Differences in system design revealed crucial factors for enhancing motivation.
Bonus systems are a common means in trying to motivate employees to perform well. However, there is still disagreement regarding the effects of bonus systems. Some theories even suggest that such systems could cause an increase in risk-behavior. This makes further research regarding bonus systems warranted, especially when applied in high-risk organizations. This study aims to explore potential effects on safety-related behavior associated with bonus systems currently used at Swedish nuclear power plants. Fifteen semi-structured interviews with employees were performed based on an eclectically composed framework from motivational and organizational theories. Results do not indicate any negative effects on safety-related behaviors, but rather that safety behaviors may be promoted insofar as bonus rewards are linked to performance goals concerning safety. Differences in bonus system design appeared to affect behavioral outcomes. The comparative and qualitative approach of this study contributes valuable information by highlighting the types of factors that may serve to stimulate greater incentive for employees to engage in safe behavior.
Journal: Human Resource Management Review - Volume 24, Issue 1, March 2014, Pages 17–30