Motivate Employees Like Prisoners

PrisonerMotivating employees can be tough. Especially employees who are not in a job role they want.

You think that is hard? Now, imagine if your job is to motivate prisoners to be law-abiding and  productive members of the community.

In the U.S. the prison population is four times higher than it was 30 years ago. It’s a sad statistic. This story is worsened by the statistics that show that  50% of incarcerated people will return to prison after being released.

In almost every state, the prison system fails to rehabilitate people at a rate we would expect.

Without a doubt, the incarcerated population is the most difficult group of people to motivate. There are many issues to contend with that seem insurmountable when you think about the difficult upbringing of many prisoners and the gang affiliation many have.

Psychologists have tried many ways to effectively rehabilitate prisoners with some success utilizing counseling, education and life skills training. But, it’s been a hit and miss strategy.

One program, however, has been the most successful. So successful, in fact, that people are amazed at the how well it is working to help prisoners of all ages, races, and backgrounds.

The program is called Prisoners Entrepreneur Program, also known as PEP. This program is an excellent example a program that motivates people to do and be their best by creating a powerful environment. An environment that unleashes each person’s potential. It turns out, this environment is consistent with what the science shows us about what really motivates people in a positive and sustainable way.

Prisoners who participate in the PEP program have a recidivism rate as low as 5%, compared to 60% of ex-cons who do not participant in the program.
It’s an amazing statistic! One study conducted by Baylor University found that the return on investment for the PEP program was 340%.

So what is it that they do that’s been so successful? Here are the 5 things I see in the program that is motivating people to change their lives and give their best to achieve a worthy goal.

1. Self-Direction and Empowerment (Freedom) – Each prisoner is encouraged to create and launch a business in an area for which they have interest and passion. They have the choice to participate, create their own goals, and determine how they will reach them.

2. A Support System of a Mentor/Coach (Relationships) – Each prisoner is given at least one mentor to provide valuable information, advisement, and coaching. They also work to connect and network the prisoners with other business people who can help and support.

3. Skill Building and Progress (Ability) – Each PEP participant is given an education in business, entrepreneurship, and success. They are then encouraged to apply it to their business allowing them to see small success and progress towards their goals.

4. Meaningful Work (Meaning) – The participants get to experience the personal satisfaction of work that is honest, interesting, and results in a positive impact on the lives of others.

5. Positive Encouragement (Energy) – Each prisoner is placed in the program for a period of time where they experience a high energy and fun work environment. It is fast-paced and goal oriented. The environment is positive emotionally and geared towards reinforcing the feelings of excitement, anticipation, success, and hope.

OK, so it’s not a good idea to treat your employees like prisoners, but as leaders, we can all learn something from the powerful environment the PEP program is creating. If it works for prisoners, image how powerful this kind of environment can be to motivate employees. It’s an environment that not only motivates people toward productive behavior, it is truly activating people to be their best and contribute greatly to the world.

You can learn more about the PEP program and even support it with a donation at

Photo above courtesy of Tiverylucky at