This is an incentive time of year. Whether you're getting ready to pay out 2012 bonuses, putting the finishing touches on 2013 measures or tracking the Q1 payout for your short term plan, incentives are probably on your to-do list.
My colleagues sure have been thinking about incentives. Derek's suggested ways to key in on what really motivates in, "Bonuses, Perks and Benefits - Finding What Works (and What Doesn't). Dan reminded us that "mo' money" can be a pointless expense if it is not related to increased motivation in, "How Much More Is Enough?" Ann introduced us to "reward sensitivity" as the psychological term to describe how people react to the prospect of rewards in "Extroverts and Introverts, Rewards and Risks."
Now they've got me going. I'm picturing the meetings that go on in February and March about bonus targets and payouts. How perfunctory they tend to be.
"I want to give you your bonus for last year. The amount is $15,000."
"Here's how it was calculated. Your rating gave you this multiplier. You had a great year!"
Maybe the employee says something more than thanks. But probably not a lot.
Exaggerating? Well maybe a little bit, but not really. And what a loss of an opportunity. There's no way that you can have any insight into employee motivation given these kinds of interchanges.
So, why not be a hero this year? Gather some real data about whether your company's incentives are worth the investment. Find out if there are lower cost motivators that would be considered as valuable to your employees.
How do you get the data? Here's what makes you a hero. You'll need to prepare your managers to have a better conversation. Give them a discussion outline and some direct questions to ask. Find out if the employees connect their effort with the size of their bonus (and why they see it that way). Ask them to blue sky it -- "If you had a chance to design the incentives for your job, what would they be?"
How can you motivate them to give you the info? Expect the feedback from the managers before the bonus checks are deposited, for instance. Or ask the employees to input the responses, with the same deal on the check deposit.
Chuck wrote a blog post this month to encourage you to be prepared when leadership asks, "What Do You Think?" Your execs want you to tell them how compensation is affecting the business. They think you've got the data!
So many incentive plans are based on HR's best guesses/old information about what motivates or delivers. Get some data that will give you real insights on your employees' reward sensitivities. Slay the dragons. Be a hero.
Margaret O'Hanlon is founder and Principal of re:Think Consulting. She'll join Ann Bares and Dan Walter of the Compensation Cafe to speak the unspoken -- Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communication -- in an upcoming book. Margaret brings deep expertise in compensation, career development and communications to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Consulting, she was a Principal with Towers Watson. Margaret is Deputy Director of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Pacific Plains Region. She earned her M.S. and Ed.S. in Instructional Technology at Indiana University, Bloomington. Creative writing is one of her outside passions, along with Masters Swimming.