Last week I was sitting in a board meeting for my local SHRM Chapter (NASHRM). I’ve been on the board for about five years now in various roles, and it’s a great way to get connected and serve others within the profession. But volunteering in that capacity is not what we’re discussing today. There was a point in the conversation where we were talking about our upcoming Mentor University program, and someone asked what the minimum threshold should be for mentors in the program. Someone threw out ten years as a baseline, and there was an immediate reaction from some of my friends on the board.

“What? Just ten years? We have ten years of experience and still feel like we don’t have much to offer.”

I had to laugh. First, because one of these self-professed not-quite-mentors is a good friend that speaks often in front of large crowds. She is a subject matter expert on recruiting, staffing, and managing candidate relationships. I have plenty of hands-on recruiting experience, but when she talks, I listen. So that seems funny to think that she can teach groups of senior level HR pros and recruiters about strategy and tactics but doesn’t have the capability (supposedly) to work in an informal one-on-one relationship with someone less experienced.

Secondly, everyone has something to offer. You do. Yes, you.

  • If you have twenty years of experience, that HR generalist with ten years under his belt can learn something from you.
  • If you have ten years of experience as a specialist in some area, the junior HR pro with a few years on the front lines can pick up a few tips and tricks you’ve learned.
  • If you have a week of experience as an HR pro of any sort, you have insights to offer someone who is just making steps to pursue an HR career.

See? You do, really.

I think in the end we dropped the ten year experience requirement on the mentors because it is artificial, and it doesn’t tell us what we want to know. When I am speaking on retention and the link to professional development, I often throw out the example of having ten years of experience. There are two ways to get to the ten year mark:

  1. Do the same basic tasks over and over again all year long, and then do it for ten years, never learning and growing beyond those basic functions.
  2. Master your basic tasks and then begin adding complexity and depth to your responsibilities, growing year after year progressively until you have a solid block of ten years behind you.

I want to be the second one here, and I want to find more of them in my daily work, because those are the people you can learn and grow from.

This week I’ll be in Florida for the Brandon Hall Group Excellence Conference. Wednesday I’ll be copresenting a workshop on the changing learning environment and how to integrate informal/experiential learning into your formal training programs. Friday I will be working in two sessions–the first on the changes we’re seeing in learning and development technology and the second focuses on the research linking human capital management technology and bottom-line business results. It’s going to be busy and fun. Am I the world’s foremost expert in these topics? No, but I do have something to offer. Insights from dozens of vendor briefings and discussions, data from our research, and practical experience from the trenches are all rolled together into one delivery that will help the audience learn and grow.

Think about yourself this week. Whether you’re volunteering through a local chapter or just finding a way to help someone else that needs it, you do have something to offer. Don’t let your own thoughts or anyone else tell you differently.

monetary rewardsLast week I was talking with some folks about using compensation to drive employee behavior, and it occurred to me that I have never shared anything about that topic here. While I might not be the world’s foremost expert on the topic, I do have a few basic principles that I have relied on over time. The thing that I would like to note is that these apply to organizations of virtually any size. Even small companies (I’m looking at you, Mr/Ms HR Manager of a company with less than 250 employees) can incorporate these elements into their compensation planning without too much stress.

The other caveat I want to mention up front: money is not always a motivator for everyone. We want to instantly think that we can drive performance or discourage behaviors through monetary incentives. While that may be the case at times, it’s also worth noting that we humans are unpredictable creatures. That’s why motivation discussions are based on theory, not law. We have laws of physics. We have theories of motivation. Keep that in mind. If you implement something we talk about today and it doesn’t work, feel free to change it. It’s about finding what works for your organization and your people.

Everyone Needs a Variable Element

When it comes to compensation we have two basic elements: base pay and variable pay. Base pay is what someone earns as a condition of their employment. The fun comes when we start talking about variable pay, its elements, and how to use those pieces to really drive the behaviors we’re looking for in the workplace.

The most common area we see this in is for sales professionals. Base+Commission is the longstanding model, and it’s fairly easy to understand. What’s more difficult is figuring out how that sort of structure applies to other professionals, such as engineers, accountants, clerical staff, or even HR. How can you implement that?

A Few Types of Variable Pay

So, what types of variable pay might you commonly see? Here are a few:

  • Bonuses
  • Profit sharing
  • Deferred compensation
  • Group incentives

Each of these types can be combined and/or configured in a wide variety of ways to target specific jobs, types of workers, and even company culture. Test, measure, and revise as necessary.

How to Afford It

One of the first hurdles I always face when it comes to getting management on board with a compensation change is pretty obvious:

Can we afford it?

The good thing about incentive compensation that is tied to performance metrics like sales or profitability is yes, you can afford it. Here’s a good illustration for how that works.

Imagine that your friend has a lemonade stand valued at $5,000 that you want to purchase. You could go out and get a loan for $5,000 to buy it, but that increases your risk (what if you don’t have the cash flow to make the payments?) and jeopardizes the future operation of the business. The smarter, and less risky, way is to negotiate a purchase price that comes from periodic payments of net profits. If your net profit runs $1,000 per year, you’ll pay for the business over five years, but you are not at risk if there is a downturn in the market–it just takes longer for the final payoff. 

Variable compensation tied to business performance is the same thing. You are only on the hook for paying out when the business performance is good enough to cover the increased compensation costs.

This is identical to the fixed/variable cost discussion as it pertains to economics as well. Your fixed costs (base pay) will be there always. The variable costs/compensation will only be applicable if certain conditions are met. That, my friends, is how you afford it. You structure the incentives so that the growth in revenue/sales/profit/productivity/whatever-you-choose is enough to cover the cost of the incentive compensation.

This Hinges on Performance

If you haven’t already figured it out, this setup is going to require something that might not already be in place. We have to be able to properly measure performance for our staff in order to compensate them appropriately. If you’re not willing to measure performance and hold people accountable for it, then you might as well scrap this whole incentive compensation thing before you even start.

But if you are willing, then you need to try to find some objective metrics to tie into the jobs you’re trying to create incentives for. That’s a whole other discussion for another day, but in the initial planning and setup you’ll need to determine those performance objectives, because those are the basis for who earns variable compensation, how much they earn, when they earn it, etc. This is important, because you have to be offering incentives for the right thing.

It’s easy to focus on rewarding people for following the process instead of rewarding them for actually achieving the desired results. Be careful about that common trap.

Check out the free employee performance management guide for more on the whole performance topic, if you’re interested.

Shorten the Distance

There are two things that I have observed with incentive compensation that really help to drive results, and they have to do with control and reaction time.

If you can shorten the distance so employees have more control and a shorter reaction time, the rewards will be more meaningful.

Money Isn’t Everything

As I wrote about a while back, there are some great things that motivate people at work other than money. Sometimes it’s easier to assume money will work in all cases, but it’s often a more complex arrangement of details that ultimately drives people to do (or not do) things at work.

Do you currently use incentive based pay? How is it working for you? What types of positions do you use it for? 

Yesterday I was speaking with a good friend about the work ethic of a mutual acquaintance. He said the person was usually good to pull an all-nighter when necessary to get the job done, but at the same time wasn’t really committed on a daily basis to the required work. Then he said a great quote that I’ll never forget:

How about pulling an all-dayer once in a while? How about working while you’re actually here at the office, all day, and getting done what needs to be done? That would be a nice change.

It was a good reminder for me that although we like to focus on those who will work hard when the pressure’s on, we don’t need to forget that the vast majority of the work is done in an unglamorous, ongoing daily shuffle. Hmmm, there might be a discussion of A vs B players in there somewhere…

Do you have a few people in your workplace who could stand to pull an “all dayer” for a change? How do you help to make that a reality?

Today we have an entertaining, yet educational video that focuses on the topics in Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, a book by Dan Pink. It’s a neat little video that tells a visual story about motivation-based research.

That’s the easy part.

The hard part is checking out the items below the video and actually doing something with the information you learn. Look forward to seeing who takes the lesson to heart!

Video source link (subscribers click through)

Video Notes

If you can’t watch the video, the key point is that for knowledge-based work (white collar), just offering more money to someone doesn’t necessarily translate to better performance (it can actually cause just the opposite in some testing!). The three keys to motivating people are autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

  • Autonomy-how much control do I have over my job, the tools I use, and how I work?
  • Mastery-am I becoming better at what I do? How do I compare to others? Are my skills and knowledge  growing?
  • Purpose-is this job bigger than the paycheck? Do I have something that I can believe in and stand behind?

The challenge

After reading/watching this information, pick at least one question below and answer it in the comments section. Then share it with a manager in your organization who might find it helpful (we all know someone who is struggling with motivating their staff!).

  • How many of the three keys (autonomy, mastery, purpose) are present in your own job? Is that enough for you?
  • How many of these three items do you actually, honestly offer your employees?
  • How many employees take advantage of any of these three opportunities (if available) within your organization?
  • What management roadblocks may exist that prevent these three motivational tools from being a reality?
  • If you had to pick one that was most important to you today, which would it be? Would your answer be the same in three years? Why or why not?
  • How can you use these concepts to coach managers or employees with regard to professional development?

I’m really excited to hear some thoughts on these questions, and I highly encourage you to share this with a manager within your organization. It might be just what they need to see today!

Of the three keynote speakers at HR Florida, Daniel Pink was definitely my favorite. He shared some phenomenal ideas to motivate employees, and I’m already looking at ways to incorporate those concepts into the workplace.

Quote of the day

Management is an 1850s technology for controlling people at work. -Daniel Pink

Commissioned vs. non-commissioned work

motivation work daniel pinkHe touched on several pieces of interesting research, but the most interesting was a study of commissioned (someone pays the artist to create it) and non-commissioned (it is created by the artist with no compensation in return) artwork. A random selection of both types was assembled, and the objective judges provided some interesting feedback. While both sets fit the requirements for form and function, the non-commissioned works were judged as more creative nearly every time.

The takeaway for business leaders is that we should look for ways to provide non-c0mmissioned work opportunities for our people. An Australian software company called Atlassian offers what they call “Fedex days” to their employees. Basically the staff has the opportunity to work for 24 hours on projects not directly related to their daily duties. The only requirement for employees during these events is that they have to make a presentation to the company describing what they worked on.

They have had incredible success with this program, and the projects and tools that have been developed during these day-long work marathons have helped to spur innovation and creativity throughout the organization. In short, it works.

Autonomy-it matters

It’s been known for quite some time that autonomy really is a powerful tool to get your people invested in their work. When was the last time you asked someone to describe their best boss ever and they replied, “He/she was always looking over my shoulder and was quick to point out when I was wrong. I love my micromanaging boss!”? I’ll go ahead and state the obvious: that has never, ever been said by anyone!

One of the hard parts after hearing a session like this is to figure out how to apply it to your daily work. Daniel Pink did a great job of offering ideas to put into action (including taking the Fedex Day idea above for a test drive). He called this one the autonomy audit.

How to perform the autonomy audit

Ask employees to rate these four questions on a 0-10 scale (0 being low control, 10 being high control):

  1. How much control do you have over your time at work?
  2. How much control do you have over your technique at work?
  3. How much control do you have over your team at work?
  4. How much control do you have over your task at work?

You’ll end up with a score between 0 and 40. Next ask the manager to predict the employee’s score from 0-40. Then (here’s the kicker) share the employee’s score with the manager. Almost always the manager’s prediction will assume the employee has higher control than the employee believes.

how to make your next 30 days your best everToday I get to review the book The 1% Solution for Work and Life by Tom Connellan. I have been doing a lot of reading on working smarter, being more productive, and developing solid work habits lately. With all the balls I juggle, it is often more than a little crazy. When my friend Rebecca reached out to me to see if I wanted to review this book, I couldn’t wait. The last book review I did for them was fantastic, and I hoped this one was on the same level. Lucky for me, it certainly was.

I am a fan of business books written with a narrative story embedded. It helps to put yourself into the situations the character is facing. You can sympathize with the troubles and celebrate with the triumphs. So before I was two pages into the book, it already had that going for it. :-)

The plot

The basic storyline is this: Ken’s life is barely hanging on by a thread in some places. He is sick and tired of just struggling to maintain that level of performance, and that prompts him to start a conversation with a friend who is doing quite well. The friend shares with him an interesting phenomenon illustrated by Olympic athletes. Apparently the best athletes in the entire world are approximately 1% better then those who are just really, really good. It’s not a 50% difference or even 10%. And if they can be the that good by being 1% better, why can’t we be 1% better at lots of little things in life? Continue reading

What do you have to offer the world?

A week or so ago, I was doing some research for a leadership project I’m working on. I came across a moving video that I really think you should check out. It’s longer than most, but the message is worth the wait. Check out The Butterfly Circus video below. (Email/RSS subscribers may need to click through to view.)

Here’s the original link to the video.

My thoughts

What does this mean for your employees?
What does it mean for you as an HR pro?
Are you aligning your staff’s talent with the organization’s needs and motivating them to be the best they can be?