The sea lion show is one of our favourite attractions and we always plan the visit to make sure we can fit it in. This year it did not disappoint and as usual we are all amazed at the fantastic tricks the sea lions did. During the show my son said to me “that sea lion will do anything for those fish mum.” I thought about it and sure enough during the show the sea lion was fed lots of fish after each trick as a reward. It left me wondering what the show would have been like without the fish!
Although I’ve never come across a business who reward their staff with fish it did get me thinking about how organisations incentivise and reward performance. In recent years I have been involved in the design and launch of a number of performance management systems. I often get into debates regarding the design of the system and whether there should be some sort of link to financial reward. This could be a direct link between the achievement of KPIs and a bonus payment or a performance rating which is linked to a pay rise. Does this type of reward really incentivise and motivate people to deliver a higher level of performance?
The answer to this question will clearly vary depending on the person and also the job they are employed to do, however, I would argue that in most cases the financial reward is not the key motivator for people.
I recently read the fantastic book “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink which answered a lot of questions for me on what really matters to people. I agree that pay is important but as outlined by Daniel H. Pink if basic pay is fair and in line with the market in most cases this is not what really motivates and ultimately leads to high levels of performance. There are lots of actions organisations can take to motivate people - in my view some of the most important ones are:
- having the right organisational structure which provides autonomy but also accountability
- spending time looking at how jobs are designed to allow the appropriate level of challenge
- giving individuals the space to be creative and come up with new ideas
- having effective management practices to offer feedback and encouragement but not to “micro-manage”
I would love to hear your thoughts on this – are these things important to people or are we not too far removed from the sea lion and we will perform to our optimum level if the financial rewards are right?
Please share your thoughts with me or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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