It’s easier to motivate people to work harder than it is to work smarter.
It’s easier to reward people for complying with measurable activities and meeting KPI’s than it is to reward creativity and innovation, particularly for early career professionals.
Let's dive in.
There's a Mismatch
Do you think about how your incentive plan is structured? And compare it with what you are asked to do?
If you look closely, there is often a mismatch.
For example, you may be told, “We want you to bring innovative ideas to the table and be creative as we try to improve the way we work.”, but your bonus plan is structured around being more productive and efficient at completing what we did last year.
How much opportunity is there to actually be creative and innovative whilst also meeting your KPI’s? How much tolerance is there regarding error and failure?
To be innovative and creative requires you to try something new, fail, try again, fail, try again, fail until you succeed.
This is why it’s so common to hear phrases like “Here we go again, we’re talking about the same great ideas we had last year, but nothing ever changes…” from people who have been around for a few years.
They don’t bother trying to innovate because they know how their incentives are structured, and trying to come up with new fancy ideas will not give them a bigger bonus than last year when they just did their job as they were told.
The hamster wheel of doing the same thing you did last year more efficiently this year is a brain drain trap.
If you look around, the opportunity to pick up accountability and responsibility is everywhere. Some people will happily give it to you, but you must ask.
This means taking on additional personal risk and being held responsible for the outcome. In other words, you're on the hook, which is exactly where you want to be!
If you want to give yourself the best opportunity to thrive in the future of work, focus on developing real skills that matter whilst doing meaningful work and let the incentives take care of themselves.
If you want to join the race to be replaced by outsourcing and AI, focus on maximising your chances of getting a bonus by being the most productive employee.
What does "performance" mean to you and your meaningful work? What incentives are you working towards? If any, at all?