David Rock’s SCARF model and motivation
Another key model HR and talent management professionals can use to improve organization-wide motivation that combines motivational theory with neuroscience is David Rock’s SCARF model. The SCARF model is Rock’s framework for understanding how the brain responds to perceived threats and rewards. Neuroscience has shown that dopamine releases either a threat or reward response in the brain that motivates human action or behavior, and further, that social needs are treated by the brain in the same way as basic survival needs like food and water. Social needs, therefore, are not social conventions, but hardwired in the brain.
The social needs Rock refers to are:
Based on Rock’s model and neuroscience, a job should not be viewed as a business transaction but rather as a part of a social system in which the brain is rewarded (or punished) based on how well the business environment is meeting an employee’s need for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. Employers should make efforts, then, to increase rewards and to minimise threats in these areas to best motivate employees.
Rock recommends that motivation strategies be designed to appeal to the social aspect of the brain. As such, developing a sense of affiliation (teamwork, belonging, camaraderie, and sharing of knowledge) and providing positive feedback are potentially some of the most powerful motivators in the workplace. Social motivators like these will activate dopamine in the brain and trigger the brain’s reward systems.