Motivated employees are the bedrock of any business’ success. Having motivated people means making sure everyone knows what success looks like, as well as where the road to it is. This is a key edge over your competitors. It seems relatively obvious, but in many cases the implementation of good performance management systems is quite complex.
In a landmark article on the subject, “On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping For B,” author Steven Kerr wisely outlines the major hurdle that many businesses encounter. Frequently, a business knows what kind of outcomes it’s hoping for. The problem is identifying how to reward and drive the desired behavior that impacts the outcome. Thus, in many cases, the desired behaviors are punished and the undesired behaviors are rewarded. This hurts all areas of business practice.
That’s just one way that a performance management system can fall apart. A number of other factors can wreak havoc on your ability to properly motivate your employees. For instance, assume that promotion and bonus decisions are made solely on recommendations from your managers. But since they all have a different idea of “excellence”, excellence in your organization begins to have little meaning.
What’s the Impact?
The impact of a performance management system that’s running poorly can have numerous outcomes. When your employees lose their focus on what success looks like in your organization, they disconnect and check out. Disconnection turns into employee dissatisfaction, which leads to your organizational climate taking a downturn. Ultimately, all of this can turn into a pattern of dysfunctional turnover that’s hard to identify.
If your performance metrics are ambiguous or poorly defined, your managers may not be identifying the top performers in your organization. That can lead to serious problems in your selection system, or training programs. If your performance metrics are off, it’s like trying to measure distance without a ruler. Ultimately, you’re just taking a wild guess. It might be an intuitive or educated guess, but it’s not as accurate as it could be.
Okay, So What Can Be Done About It?
Organizations tend to frequently reorganize their performance management and reward systems. However, often the new system is no more effective than the old system. To find effective motivators, you need to talk to your employees and supervisors. The more perspective you get means a more in-depth job analysis, and the better armed you’ll be when you start building.
To really motivate your employees, you need to connect the A and B that Steven Kerr talks about. If you want to achieve B, then make sure that you’re accurately motivating the behaviors that will do it. There’s a reason he wrote this in 1976 and it’s still pertinent today.
Making sure your rewards are motivating and the way you’re measuring performance is accurate, takes careful work and accurate analysis. Anything else is guesswork, and another old adage is pertinent in this case, “You get what you pay for.”
If you’d like more information about performance management or rewards systems, please feel free to contact me or download my one-sheet about performance management and reward systems that really motivate.