The problem with bonus and compensation driven performance is two-fold. First, from a public relations standpoint, bonuses tick people off right now. Rightfully or wrongfully, the impression of entitlement rubs folks the wrong way as many are being laid off or having their salaries cut. Second, and more important for most leaders, monetary incentives are short-term activators. Whether you believe money motivates people or not, it does so only for a brief period. As soon as you feed the beast, it is hungry again.
The good news is that an organization based on performance does not have to be an expensive proposition. Pride is a much greater motivator than money any day. Unfortunately, because you have pride in your organization doesn’t automatically mean your employees see it the same way. Leaders tend to be leaders because they already have a drive for performance and success. Instilling this element in the culture of the organization takes an intentional effort.
For people to be committed to performance in their work, there are a few necessary elements that need to be in place:
1. A clear vision of what is to be achieved. Beyond just a laminated statement of some sort, this vision has to be of a future state with a road map and some direction for achieving the vision. If people know where they are going, and can track their progress toward those objectives, they can take ownership in the vision themselves. If the objective is not clear, or there is no way to monitor progress, followers will focus on the immediate tasks at hand only.
2. Autonomy in their work. This doesn’t mean that each employee should simply chose what they do and when they do it. Autonomy can take many forms. Depending on the nature of the job, the degree to which employees are able to make their own decisions and participate in creating their own work-world will determine how committed to this world they actually are. Lack of autonomy always means lack of accountability. If you make all the decisions about every detail, what do I have left to own.
3. Meaningful and engaging work. If the only way you can imagine the organization of your followers work is in a menial and mundane fashion, you can’t expect that your employees will be focused on performance. They might be focused on achieving a specific milestone or measure but you will have to continually reinforce the measure to get the performance. Humans are amazing creatures when it comes to adding significance to their work. If there is no significance, there is no reason to be engaged and perform.
4. A sense of community. This aspect is overlooked by many leaders trying to provide a motivational work environment, but your followers are social people. Feeling that we are all part of the same team, or that my co-workers and I share a set of values or interests, goes a long way in retention and motivation. A Performance-Based Culture is not one of individual success. It is one where our efforts to be successful are combined with those of a like mind.
Of course there is no silver bullet in establishing this mindset of performance. Leaders can’t dictate
an atmosphere of camaraderie or a culture of achievement. Leaders can, however, create the circumstances that promote these elements. Focus on compensation to the point that it is fair and competitive but treat it only as one element of the workplace. Successful leaders engage their followers through interaction and relationship.