Every living being responds with performance only if there is some sort of reward on offer. Leave alone humans, it is the loaf of meat that makes the lion perform to the commands of its master or small fish or bits of squid that motivate dolphins to do their tricks when their trainer gives them cues. In fact, it is said, that when you sit and talk in loving tones to flowering plants, they grow faster and produce flowers that are better in terms of colours and their vibrancy. As children, all of us responded to our parent’s demands to show off our skills in singing nursery rhymes to their friends, only upon the assurance of a reward in the shape of either cookies or chocolates. This continues to be the most innocent bribe, we offer to our offspring, for their performance. Over time, cookies and chocolates get replaced with things of higher value, like smartphones, lap-tops, etc. The established principle is that performance demands reward or recognition.
I recall with relish, in fourth grade, I got first prize in essay writing. The rector gave me a reward/gift of ‘The Bible’; great motivation was its consequence. I read the Bible, -St Mathews, St Luke, St John, etc. This recognition gave an impetus for me to read and write. “Far and away the best prize life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing” (Theodore Roosevelt).
To ensure performance of teams, what is of critical value, is the need for shared vision. The clarity of business vision is absolute. And the vision must be adequately disseminated across all levels of the organisation. Some managers consider budget documents to be of classified nature and hence do not share them, with those who are expected to accomplish the associated numbers. It is important the targeted business numbers must be known across the board. On an individual basis, each constituent must be made aware of their respective key results areas (KRAs). Every single new entrant to the organisation must be clearly advised of her/his KRAs and how they will be assessed for performance. This attitude and way forward for achievement of basic number is an important area for supervisors to monitor closely on a regular basis.
In the assignment of tasks, all efforts must be made by the supervisor to balance and distribute the workload, with matching responsibility. This ensures clarity. There would be no room for confusion between whose work it is to perform and who shoulders the responsibility associated with that work.
Following a spectacular deliverance of performance by any worker, the job of the manager, in the management of the performer’s expectation of reward with reality, acquires great significance. Many a manager fails in the management of excellent human resources. The good worker requires a better supervision and an excellent worker the best. He/she that burns most shines most. Glowing coals sparkle off. Every single worker is consciously and unconsciously hungry for recognition and reward. Failure to give them an enhanced and prominent position will most likely yield to lower standards of performance.
Feedback, to any effort is always critical. It must be taken and given in the most sincere form and format. Those managers, who know how to use the feedback mechanism for enhancing motivational levels of the workforce, usually have to themselves the most productive team in the organisation. Whilst, giving feedback, an enlightened manager conveys appreciation of the strengths, without compromising on conveyance of what are seen and perceived as gaps, or any other inadequacies, for enabling corrective action. Feedback should always be less on person, more on work and its quality; subjectivity must necessarily be avoided, unless there is need to correct some major personality related deficiency. Even then, the manager has to put all empathy-inspired skills to navigate through a discussion, without hitting any iceberg of loaded and withheld emotions.
Well-trained managers, while doing any feedback meetings know how to drive the meeting in a manner, where the exercise is seen as ignition to enhanced motivation and distinguishes the feedback that she/he gives, more for the purposes of self-improvement.
Annual appraisal, in my view, is a misfit management concept. It is like going into the theatre of war, after the war has ended, to merely count the dead or to bayonet the wounded to death. A full year is allowed to pass, without the poor employee getting to know, what his supervisor, perceives in him to be reason that relates to either skills, inadequacy or gaps, impairing her/his performance. Staff must be appraised, at least once a quarter, preferably face-to-face with the supervisor. Periodic feedback, at the predetermined intervals is always effective and desirable.
Once performance of the set budget or target is achieved, what should be the reward? What is the optimum compatibility (between performance and rewards)? A single type of reward is equivalent to demeaning the importance of work between two colleagues. It just cannot be the same for all ranging from monetary to non-monetary. Recognition and rewards must be pertinent and commensurate with the performance and its significance to the organisation.
The obvious question, hence is what areas are of importance to the organisation? The answer is simple, all areas. An organisation excels only when all of its constituents feel that their work is recognised as being important to the success of the organisation. To enable performance, the manager has to create in the mind of every individual how important is his/her assignment. I never missed an opportunity to tell the tea-boys of how significantly they impact upon the organisation’s business and culture. Serving coffee in a cup with the spoon placed against its handle, which must be on the right side, is indicative of good etiquette training; serving the same that is half in the cup and half spilled in the saucer sends a very different message. Giving quality importance to work enhances productivity and performance. True recognition roots and spreads. Praise, with ill intent, is done only by the evil people/managers and is certainly dispraise.
Alongside, significance of the task, reward people with autonomy. Nothing is more motivational than to give independence to think and create, within of course, the defined confines of the entity’s corporate objectives. Also, contributing to the development of new skills or fine-tuning existing skills is a good way to reward. From nomination to training programme, both within and outside, inclusive of overseas development programmes to granting of stock options, as pension benefits, etc are all tools of reward and recognition.
Praise is never unpleasant, done in isolation or in public. Those who do not value praise will rarely do anything worthy of praise. Praise makes good people better and bad people worse. Praise must come from others and environment, while self-praise stinks.
For lack of performance, and if it is consistent, nobody from the workforce will protest, “firing” of such resources. What is done in passion cannot even be thought in cold blood. Within each organisation, there is this class of self-motivated individuals, who perform beyond reasons of seeking recognition or even reward. They find for themselves satisfaction and self-fulfillment, out of the significance, they attach to their work, in the overall scheme of the mission of the organization. A nurse in a hospital, who responds with, “I save lives” or the person who mops the floor at NASA, says, “I sent the man on the moon” do not need any reward or recognition – they find meaningful .purpose to the work, they perform and do.
Managers just need to sincerely appreciate good quality of output and then witness for themselves the power of it. In any case, rewards aren’t goals, they are mere milestones. “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). The roots of any corporate culture are embedded in the soil of appreciation of good toil and efforts. The greatest reward is to do more. And rewards that demands surrender of autonomy of thought and action are never to be had or pursued. No staff likes to be burdened with rewards that are perceived as gaining of scraps out of generosity.
The writer is a freelance contributor