In my last article I discussed the concept where employees have asked for some sort of incentive or reward for their participation in the generation of new ideas that would help the company. It was my view that incentives and rewards should be based on the value that is produced and results generated by the implementation of an idea (revenue, earnings, etc.), not the subjective value of the idea itself. It did get me thinking though….
What has occurred in business that has caused this sort of request to even be made?
Do we need to put incentives, or better put, more incentives in place to encourage each specific or incremental request or behavior? Have we reached a point where we all believe that our salary or wage is an entitlement?
This is tricky ground. I believe that there are numerous issues that have and do contribute to this evolving situation. Knowledge worker allegiance has shifted from the company to themselves. There are many reasons for this but I believe its roots are in the market boom of the 1990’s when employees changed companies with almost great regularity in order to receive ever higher compensation. They focused on their own best interest.
Company allegiance to it employees has been changed under the combined pressures of cost reduction (including both true staff reduction and the drive to outsource functions to low cost labor locations), the demands of stockholders for improved stock value, and the prolonged downturn in the general economic conditions. The company too is focusing (maybe more so now than in the past) on its own best interest.
It seems that what was a somewhat mutually supportive relationship between the company and its employees may have become somewhat more mutually adversarial. That could explain why companies only want to pay for what they quantifiably get, and employees only want to do what they are quantifiably paid to do. This could explain the employee requests for incremental incentives for every company incremental work/output request. I am not entirely sure, and I will think about it some more.
I am a big believer in the alignment of objectives, goals and incentives for a business to achieve its maximum potential. If everyone is working toward the same goals and is compensated on those items that bring the most value to the business then you should have a structure that is both efficient and focused. Is that enough?
I was on an organizational wide call where there was a general discussion regarding the business structure and potential new opportunities in the market, and how to most effectively and efficiently pursue them. The group conducting the call was asking for input and ideas from the team based on the fact that the team members were the ones closest to the markets and issues and should therefore have some of the best ideas how to deal with them. This made sense to me.
It then took a strange turn. Members of the team then asked “would there be any incentives put in place based on their generation of ideas?”
Now I understand that incentives are designed to try and generate desired behavior, but where do we cross the line and start asking for incentives for people to “think”?
My logic here is that if you can come up with a better or more efficient way to do your job, you should implement it. If it truly is better, you should be able to exceed your existing objectives and then be compensated better based on the current incentives associated with your role. This is what you are paid for.
We are all essentially knowledge workers. We should try to generate the maximum value for our businesses possible. We do this by applying our knowledge to the best of our abilities. Incentives should be based on the output generated from the application of knowledge and ability, not the application of knowledge and ability itself.
Technology is a good thing. We have all come to depend on it to get our jobs done. It has helped remove both time and space from our work and has enabled us to do things in minutes that used to take days or longer. It can however become a crutch. It does not alleviate the responsibility you have for seeing to it that the job is completed.
There was a recent situation where an assignment was given to a staff member. He was the owner of the assignment and had the responsibility to get the assignment completed. Some time later the deadline came and went. When queried about the topic his response was the ever more common:
“I sent out emails requesting help, and I am still waiting for the responses…”
Sending out an email is not the same as completing the task. It does not transfer the responsibility for completing the task to the person you are sending the email to. In short, in today’s busy, high stress, under staffed business world, emails are easy to “miss”, especially when you are requesting time and effort that we all feel we have little enough available to do our own work.
A better solution, if help is needed, is to call. Make contact. Exchange information real time. If the person needed is local, get up and go see them. Once you have the required information, or achieved closure on a topic, then send an email confirming what was discussed, what the solution was and what the steps are moving forward. That email requires no active response from the recipient and enables everyone to get on with their respective jobs.
“Sending an email” does not get the job done. Make the call. Get up and make the visit. Take the initiative and get the job done.