In the press: BIZ Magazine July 2017

Bonuses? Or do we have other methods?

When we are talking about bonuses, we immediately think of money. In a lot of companies, the bonus is used as a motivation tool. And, actually, we know for more than 40 years that the carrot (= bonus) and the stick method is not working as motivation, and, even more important, not in the benefit of the company. Actually, it works against when the bonus is not related to a good key performance indicator. We also know more than 40 years that motivation is not coming from bonuses. If you are working in a company that is offering bonuses, ask yourself if that bonus is really a motivation tool for you. And when you are honest with yourself, the answer will be No. Off course it is nice to receive extra money, but it doesn’t make you work harder. Unless…… you are one of the people who are underpaid and need a bonus for a decent living. But it's still hasn’t to do something with motivation.
But what can make that you are working hard and that you’re not thinking about that quarterly or yearly bonus? I mentioned already an important condition: you need to be paid fairly. That means that you get paid what is offered in the market. Factors that have to be considered are experience, responsibilities and results. If this is the case, people don’t leave the company for money. They are willing to stay and work for the company. And they are willing to make a step extra when they feel that they are appreciated in the company. But it must be a real appreciation based on the value they have for the company. And to deliver that value, there are 3 elements vital in their work: purpose, mastery and autonomy.
First of all, employees need to know what is the purpose of their work. They want to know why they are doing the work they do. From my experience, a lot of people don’t realize their real purpose. And often people need to be reinforced in the purpose. Examples? A person who sells insurances to people. They often say that their purpose is to sell insurances. In fact, their real purpose is that they secure a part of the daily life of people when a mishappening takes place (at least when you have a decent insurance company). A waitress in a restaurant is not ‘just’ serving food. Her purpose is to help people having a great time together. You will go again to the same restaurant when you’ll find there a good atmosphere, food and serving by a team that takes good care of you, your friends and family. And that is the purpose of their job: Giving you a good time! Good leaders make that purpose clear to their people all the time.
When the purpose is clear for the employees, they can show and develop their mastery. Or in other ways: show in what they are good at. And others like that (at least when it is not done as ‘show off’). When I visit friends, they proudly present their homemade Tuica. Or they do a lot of effort to make a great BBQ. Not to show off, but because they like to show their talents and that we have an extraordinary day with them. Unfortunately, in organizations we waste a lot of talents. Employees have and want to implement ideas and suggestions, showing their mastery. But often management is not listening or is afraid to implement those ideas. In my experience, the management is pushing the brakes, not the employees. Leaders welcome ideas and look with each other what and how to implement. When I lead workshops and I ask the participants to come up with ideas, I see many, many suggestions that can make a company more profitable.
But to show your mastery you need also autonomy. Autonomy means that employees know what their ‘playing’ field is, that they can decide by themselves and without fear that the manager is disagreeing and upset about a decision. And people need autonomy because they can serve customers better. Nowadays, we can't describe everything in rules and procedures. Customers have all kind of requests that can't be all described in rules. In a good company, employees know what their playing field is and what they can decide themselves to serve the customer the best. When we went a few weeks ago to a telecom company in order to make a new contract, we had a good experience with their sales force. Why? First of all, the sales representative listened carefully to us. He understood what our wishes were. And, on one point, he had the autonomy for breaking the rules, because that rule was clearly not in our favor. He dared to be different. We went satisfied home with a good contract. And we will remember this next time when we will go to them and we have no intention to go to another provider, even if their price could be lower.
If employees see the purpose of their job, they can show their mastery and have also autonomy, so they go happy to their job every day and the pressure on bonuses vanishes.

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