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08/15/2014

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Great post Chris.

I am still not convinced that gamification can yet be applied to larger sized, longer term compensation, but I do agree that it is effective at modeling potential outcomes and quite likely useful in short-term reward and recognition platforms.

Expectations are really about communication and perception. These are two things every compensation professional can work at and never perfect. But, many see the vagueness of an exact outcome as a good reason not to do much at all.

Perhaps we should change our own expectations of what we can achieve via better communication and we will be happier with the outcomes of these programs.

I'm not convinced that the statement shown below is true, but if it were, it would be an interesting development. Most HR professionals have not mastered the "old technology" and might want to do so before moving to the "next frontier."

"The total rewards “smart money” is increasingly focusing on neuroscientific research as the next high frontier for human capital professionals, and to moving what has been predominantly theoretical research to regular and practical application in the workplace."

Hi Chris,
I think the research is good but my concern is in the extrapolation to the work environment. It’s good to glean things from research but I’m not convinced yet that you can always make the direct application to a long term work environment.

Human motivation is tricky and it is good to understand the research that “happiness” is not just tied to the result but also the expectation of the result. The question from this is then how do you level set individual expectations across a large employee population to optimize “happiness”? Can you create a correlation that employees that tend to have higher expectations are a greater flight risk? Would they be “less happy” and perpetually more open to other opportunities? How does “happiness” correlate to performance? Are people with higher expectation and lower “happiness” typically better performers because they are harder to please? How does this differ between companies that under commit and outperform vs. companies that over commit and underperform? How do you combine all these factors and more to influence your workforce strategy?

I think they will have to relate applied neuroscience to emerging talent analytics to help bridge the research to practical application. I think many in total rewards will be skeptical of research based applied neuroscience on its own because of some initial misguided attempts to popularize it by the likes of Daniel Pink and others.

Congrats on a stimulating article followed by great comments, Chris.

Suspect you are right on all points, especially since Blaine's
"Most HR professionals" are not necessarily the same subset as your Total Rewards "smart money" betters. Trevor's thoughts also amplify the great need for broader real-life testing of such limited theoretical findings. Play is different from work. Student game behavior varies from paid employee results. These realities may not win media attention but they are vital to our applications.

Let's keep exploring for better tactics!

Drat! As only my third guest "gig" - I forget that I supposed to try to respond/interact with the commenters (sorry).

I'll reserve judgment on the future role of gamification, since what I really know (and understand) of that process - would just about fill a thimble (okay, a little more than a thimble . . ).

I think the smart money is shifting toward applied neuroscience, in the application of toward rewards - since in the end, what we're really trying to influence and affect in employees are what I call the trifecta of motivational intensity - satisfaction, commitment and engagement. And oddly, all those seem to have a behavioral nexus (who knew?).

I think we're already "late" to this ballgame in fact, since our organization made an light-handed foray into actively setting expectations with employees on an incentive program of ours more than five years ago - which proved to be a smart move. The wider (and longer) road is still ahead of us though.

Appreciate the comments!

It would have been nice if you had provided some evidence that neuroscience was relevant. It would have made for a more convincing case. I have checked the literature on several occasions and come up empty.

A good point, and an obvious failure on my part to cite that we had dabbled in this area - and then not provide more details. For space limitations, I'll forgo the entire history, as the back story on this got posted previously as a case study, which all should be able to access (http://www.worldatwork.org/community/discussions/discuss.jsp?did=17408&tid=17408&frm=sr).

So, in subsequent years we did make the affirmative effort to communicate the expectations of a slightly lower average bonus - although arithmetically we had no reason to anticipate anything less than the $2500 average from prior years. However, by providing that only slight lower outcome expectation, for employees to make a relative comparison, we shifted the results of our survey by more than 30 bases points - and where only +40 percent of the bonus recipients now thought the bonus amounts were unfair, based on their contributions.

That seemed like a significant shift, when the only variable that changed between years was the "expected average" that was communicated to the workforce.

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