Incentives and motivation

How to lead employees to peak performance

Do you expect people to go the extra mile for you?

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

This often-used metaphor reflects well what matters to most managers. Getting more performance is always welcome, but investing more for it often is not. The methods to achieve this goal are often outdated. One fact remains: to receive the best possible performance, you have to motivate your employees. Many organisations fail to do so, and only a few are sustainably successful.

How can you lead your organisation to succeed on this matter?

Status Quo

An analysis of the situation often shows an irritating picture. Incentive systems either do not exist or originate from long-ago times (politely said). An omnipresent “be glad you have work” echoes through the corridors of those organisations. Moreover, if incentive systems exist, they have often been designed by people who have never come into contact with them by themselves. The focus in designing them was often to demand a high level of performance but give little in return. Such systems are characterised by a high degree of non-transparency and complexity. If you find yourself in this situation, you must initiate change immediately.

Performance & Justice

Please stick to one principle: you want more, you give more. Some organisations still use so-called caps or set arbitrary maximum payout (e.g. commission or other incentive systems). In most cases, these only lead to business being shifted or delayed, often even deliberately, in order to circumvent them. Unless you talk about global tenders, where the brand name often plays an important role, and the (sales) person takes a back seat, a cap is a relic from days long gone. Most of the time, it is meant to serve only one purpose: to limit others in terms of income in order to ensure that the executive level receives the highest payout. Stop the envy in the organisation. Also, keep your incentive schemes and their payout flexible. Not all people are equally motivated by money. Some are more motivated by, e.g. free time, travel or other aspects of life. Always be sure that your incentive system is oriented towards the employees and their wishes and needs. Never blindly copy other people’s systems only to find out that their idea does not work for your organisation.

Leadership & Performance

Leadership plays a vital role in creating circumstances that allow the best performance to happen. On the one hand, it is your task to mediate between the interests of the employees and those of the organisation. On the other hand, you have to ensure that both sides receive a fair share of the work results. Avoid waffling on about supposedly intangible benefits that are supposed to pay off in some nebulous future. Employees have developed a very keen sense of phrase-mongering, and trust in the case of such statements is immediately eroded. The current talent situation in the market, which will not improve in the foreseeable future, allows only one approach: transparency, fairness and performance-based incentives — at all times and for all parties involved.

More on the topic of incentive systems and motivation
in this week’s podcast: click here to listen and learn.

Fairness, motivation and incentive systems to improve
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Niels Brabandt

Niels Brabandt

Niels Brabandt is in business since 1998. Helping managers to become better leaders by mastering the concept of Sustainable Leadership. Based in Spain & London.