Bonus bogus

Some organisations still seem to believe that financial bonuses will boost “intrapreneurship” and motivate staff members to go the extra mile.

We do live well in the 21st-century and the “carrot and stick method”, developed and nurtured during the Industrial Revolution, has long shown to be ineffective. Yes, give your employees, standing behind textile machines or operating alongside hundreds of other employees on belts more money if they produce more efficiently. These incentives make sense in case your people perform routine tasks with little need for creativity or “entrepreneur” spirit. It just doesn’t work for non-routine conceptual tasks. Research has consistently shown this for over 30 years and yet we seem to have a hard time to bridge the gap between those results and business practice.

Look at it this way; by concentrating rewards solely on cash you create a mind twirl engrained in negativity. Ask your 15-year old son to clean your garage, AND promise him 10 Euros. What goes on in his brain? “Hmm, this job must be so filthy and uninteresting that my dad will actually pay me to do it for him”. A few days later ask him to help you clean your car… What will then go on in his brain? “Last time he asked me to do a filthy job he paid me money. He really seems to need me, so for this new job I’ll ask more”.

Anyone who thinks this is a viable long -term strategy; please raise your hand….

This is exactly what it’s all about, short term “incentives” tapping into old mind patterns from our childhood … If you don’t finish your plate, you won’t get dessert. (I won’t pursue on that path)…. If you do this (or don’t this) then…
Hey, this is plain, good old blackmail!

Now we all recognize the “if you do this, then” situation instantly since we’ve all been exposed to them numerous times. Does this mean that we’re doomed to reproduce that same behaviour over and over again? No, we don’t! We can learn how to adopt different behaviour leading to better performances and better lives.

Survival of the fittest?

This strategy will actually backfire. Why? By persisting to ignore what really motivates people you’ll actually diminish collaborative efforts, innovation and foster short term strategy thinking.

What about silently encouraging unethical behaviour in times of global social responsibility and whistleblowers? Yes, well-dosed competition can be a motivator for innovation and success. But what happens if your ability to pay your mortgage depends on it…That can hardly announce a healthy future for a company. And looking at the bigger picture; how does this behaviour relate to the current economic situation?

People want to thrive, and they want their companies to thrive. Yes, they do! How can we make that easier for them? By listening to what motivates them truly. Of course, there is some arm wrestling going on between companies for the best talent. So?

This is assuming that young talent is ONLY motived by money. We know of course this is not the case. Fair pay is important. You basically want to pay individuals fair enough to get that issue off the table. Now, what is fair? “Fair” might be seen as being in-line with industry standards however it is a very subjective, personal perception. Listening to individuals may just give you the key to “fairness”.

Pay will always be put in balance with other “motivators” such as the ability to self-direct, develop expert skills and being part of a bigger purpose. Designing a structure around these motivators will automatically deflate the pressure on money alone.

Engage us or enrage us!

This is where 21st-century leadership skills appear; creating more opportunities for meaningful discussions, moving away from a “blame” culture by building mutual trust and allowing people to shine are just a few hints available out there.

Today one can assume that companies recruit the right people for the right jobs. Hiring them is good, giving them the opportunity to excel is better. The least we can do is to trust them to make the right decisions at the right time! Moving away from the “manager” and becoming a collaboration structure “designer” will create that necessary space. Start listening, open your eyes to what’s really happening and ask the right questions….

You’re better of training your staff and see them go than not training them and have them stay!

Improvisation is freedom within structure.

Improvisational leadership does just that. Look at how a jazz combo produces work; they’re all experts with their instruments, they fully trust each other, they accept and add to any “offering” from others, they accept that they’re part of the solution without owning it, they don’t use a detailed plan…. And yet they succeed because they are part of something they perceive as being bigger and more meaningful!

Why not create a company so irresistibly tuned to purposeful collaboration that people will want to be part of it?

Leveraging employee performance by throwing money at people’s faces seems unreasonably silly in these glooming times and fosters panic and short-term thinking.

What worked then might just not work anymore…

(Photos credits : Katt Yukawa on UnsplashFabien Blank on Unsplash)