Month: March 2015
Organisations tend to base performance management approaches, and many other practices for that matter, on the assumption that human beings are innately self-interested. As such, motivational tools tend to be individually focused and based on financial incentives. For example, many roles still run along a ‘reward or punish’ line. That is to say, bring home the bacon and you’ll receive big bonuses; produce mediocrity and you’ll be sanctioned with taking home only your basic salary.
But are we really that self-interested?
Our founder Lynda Gratton has investigated the contrast between the self-interest that organisations expect from their people and what we actually see around us. She points out that many people give their time and resources to help others. Crucially, they do this without getting anything back in return except, perhaps, personal satisfaction. What gets in the way of this natural propensity to give is in fact the performance management structures that many organisations have put in place. These structures isolate personal monetary reward as the sole driver of performance, and underplay the contribution of other more complex motivational factors such as autonomy, mastery of a skill, and a sense of purpose. Therefore, despite being institutionalised in many companies, the wholesale belief in the innately self-interested human being is perhaps misguided.
Increasingly complex world, increasingly sophisticated solutions
Organisations seeking to enhance their performance management approaches must therefore look beyond traditional, hyper competitive performance management where the only motivational tool is financial reward. It is, of course, perfectly possible to manage people in this traditional style, but the outcome is usually compliance, rather than innovation or high performance. As I mentioned in a previous post, we live in a world where the work we do is increasingly complex, requiring employees to produce more sophisticated solutions. A more holistic approach to performance management, in which people are self-directed and engaged, is far more likely to achieve the sophisticated solutions required. To see how this might work in practice, I’d like to introduce you to Atlassian, an Australian enterprise software company. Every third week of the month, Atlassian gives its software developers 24 hours to work on whatever they would like and with whomever they wish. The only caveat to this is that they present what they worked on to their company. Not in a formal, boardroom-style meeting, but in an informal, party-style meeting intended to create a collaborative and innovative environment.
Through creating a more intrinsically motivated workforce, thanks to a reduction in the amount of individualized incentives, Atlassian’s once-monthly 24 hours of innovation has led to myriad improvements for existing software and ideas for new products. This shows that exactly what so many employers are nervous of, giving autonomy to people, can achieve precisely what they need: engaged people producing sophisticated solutions.
For more information about tools that give people the chance to set their own agenda, invest in the future of their organization, and create solutions to complex challenges themselves, you can read about our FoWlab Jam platform here.
We live in a world where we can increasingly tailor our problem-solving capacity to the challenge in hand. When battling a well-defined problem that requires specific expert knowledge or skills, the good old fashioned face-to-face meeting of a small group of similarly skilled people remains the most efficient. However many problems are poorly defined, for instance if only some stakeholder groups’ perspectives were applied when defining what the challenge looks like. So to give yourself the best chance of arriving at a solution, you’re going to need a large, diverse group of problem solvers. Traditionally, this second category of problem was enormously difficult to solve. Assembling 2,000 people in one place is tall order to say the least, not to mention the potentially prohibitive cost of transporting that number of people across the globe. And even if you find a large enough room and the cost doesn’t matter, how would you ensure that all their 2,000 voices were heard? And would they feel comfortable enough to really speak their mind?
Recently there has been a marked trend of established companies which had previously seemed indestructible seem to be on unstable ground or even, shockingly, fail. In this environment, corporations are increasingly facing this second complex type of challenge, requiring the input of multiple stakeholders. Moreover, the stakes are higher and the need to show results rapidly is ever more pressured. The good news that this is now possible in a cost-effective way, drawing on many-to-many communication methods and platforms that we primarily know from outside the workplace.
For best results engage and invest employees
At Hot Spot Movement we have been mulling over the best way to solve global challenges in multinational organisations in the most inclusive and engaging manner possible. Integrating solutions across an entire corporation can seem like moving a mountain, which is discouraging for even the most motivated among us. In addition, it is crucial that insights aren’t lost in the noise of so many people communicating with one another on systems with so many voices all clamoring to be heard. While we do use technology and strategies that are similar to those of social networks, this is not a social network. We wished to create a is process that results in crowd-sourced actionable solutions to complex challenges, with our principal focus being on bringing about solutions.
Accordingly, a few years ago we launched our FoWlab Jam service. The aim of a FoWlab Jam is to help you solve your challenge, allowing you to bring about a company-wide solution. What’s more, it reveals unexpected insights and discovers natural leaders, outside core decision makers, to help you further promote the solution you wish to implement. This is achieved by an online conversation between anything from 500 to thousands of employees, guided by our team of global facilitators. We draw on our globally recognised Future of Work Research Consortium to bring you cutting edge insights that inform the conversation. We ensure that employees know their voice matters and that they are trusted, with individual invitations to the jam frequently coming directly from their CEO. This discussion is collaborative and inclusive, and really invests employees in their future and the big decisions their company is making. The Jam lasts for a finite length of time, usually 72 hours, giving a feeling of urgency and excitement to jammers, and allowing you to reach the actionable solutions rapidly. Once the conversation has finished, our research team puts together all the insights gleaned into a comprehensive report, and deliver these findings to the relevant internal stakeholders at the client company.
How to capitalise on insights
We ran a FoWlab Jam with 1,000 members of PwC’s millennial population to discuss how the consultancy could improve retention of young, new talent. Dennis Finn, vice chairman and global human capital leader at PwC told us that “the post-jam report distilled this vast conversation into four emerging themes, each of which has helped us approach to attracting and retaining world-class talent”. After a jam we ran for Novartis Pharma, Laura McKeaveney, head of global human resources, told us that “it has really shown us a new way to build an inclusive and open community”. We frequently work with clients to tag a Jam onto any employee engagement survey to discuss major issues arising from it and ensuring the employees’ voices are heard and they feel invested in their future at their company.
I believe that the increasingly complex challenges facing today’s businesses are by no means insurmountable. However, with globalisation and the diversification of cultures in any given company, it is vital that problem-solving technology that engages many in conversation with many is used by corporations globally. In this case, the world is very much our oyster.