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You donít always get what you want

Last weekend I ticked off one of the items on my bucket list. I ran a 5k race. Now for most people this would not be much of an achievement as it's not actually that far but for me it was a challenge and a triumph. 

Why? Because:

  • Running hurts those of us who are not natural athletes
  • It was outdoors (freezing)
  • The woodland trail (which sounds so harmless in theory) was muddy and uphill
  • I was ill with hacking consumption (ok a cold)
As I dragged my weary body uphill with the cold wind whipping my face I wondered why on earth I had done this.  My motivation comprised of 3 key elements:
  • A close friend had taken up running and was doing amazingly well and I was inspired and jealous in equal measures.
  • I dreamt that I could run like a gazelle, which is a bit like my dreams in which I am a brilliant singer, deluded to say the least.
  • And the key motivation was, I was not sure if I could actually do it and wanted to challenge myself.
I have thought about the challenge issue as it has been the lynch pin of my career, I gravitate to virtually impossible situations like a moth to a flame. The head hunters could never tempt me with bulging sacks of gold or tales of plush offices and successful organisations. However, I would salivate over descriptions of failing management teams, reputations in tatters and brands facing destruction. Perfecto!
I know that many of my peers have been horrified by some of the career choices I have made and often attempted to talk me out of them to no avail, I love a challenge and that’s what does it for me.
What does it for me does not do it for others, we are all driven by different dreams, different aspirations and different visions of our futures. Whilst we all require the basics of enough money to live on and safe secure homes and families once these needs are satisfied our requirements from organisations become much more individual.
So if this is the case why do we expect one size fits all performance management and reward systems to work.
At the HR Lounge, we have recently been working with groups of managers in organisations who want to increase productivity and engagement of their staff and found that one of the barriers to this was the performance appraisal and reward processes.
These had all been designed for the prototype of the average employee (I have yet to meet one). The organisations could not understand why having the most whizzy system was not giving them the results that they anticipated.
We spent time talking to, and more importantly listening to staff who told us that they found the appraisal process tedious and pointless, so did the managers by the way.
The assumptions made by managers included the thinking that as there was not much flexibility available for financial rewards or promotions that staff were just fed up and would resist management’s attempts to measure performance. We found the opposite. People understood clearly the economic reality and were not expecting more money. However, they objected to their managers not understanding their individual perspectives. 
Let me give you an example.
One manager had introduced an awards scheme, which was great, low cost public accreditation and lots of fanfare for high performing workers. This was great for about 90% of the staff. For the 10% who were high up on the introvert scale this was as painful as a public flogging. They didn’t want this type of thanks they wanted an approach that met their personal requirements. 
There were some staff like me who relished a challenge and could be motivated by stretch targets that looked impossible and others who really performed at their best when their targets were realistic and focussed on stability and maintenance. One member of staff wanted to have their manager say thank you. Another wanted some flexibility around their working week to care for elderly dependants rather than yet another employee of the week gong.
Organisations spend millions putting in place the perfect online appraisal systems, and I have no problem with these at all, in fact the more we as HR leaders embrace the benefits of technology the better. However getting the mechanics right without understanding the basic motivational issues at play and how to utilise these to best effect is pointless and will not achieve the required outcomes.
The HR community has an opportunity to educate managers so that they approach their staff as individuals with unique hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations. 
Before launching the new appraisal process ask yourself if your organisation really understand what makes your people tick.  If your answer is no, you have some work to do. 
Now, back to the next challenge!




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