Motivating employees through data investigation

3 Dec

Usually I would look to publish a piece like this one on my remuneration blog, however as I discovered this issue while reviewing employee data I think it’s relevant to post here. I gained this experience while working for a subsidary of a large multinational, I had a position which was split between HR data and remuneration. In this particular organisation three short term incentive (STI) levels existed, one targeted at general employees (the bulk of the workforce), one targeted at senior managers, and finally one which was exclusively targeted at executives. Without delving too far into the remuneration side (I will be covering STI weightings in a future post on my remuneration blog) the three STI’s had three internal weightings: individual performance, group/division performance, and finally organisational performance. With the weightings applied differently across the three employee groups, for example an executives have far more ability to influence company performance than a typical employee does, while a senior manager has less ability to influence the organisational performance than an executive, but far more ability to influence overall performance of a group or division than a typical employee.

However in viewing the data some significant inconsistencies presented themselves, a number of senior managers had been placed on the executive STI program. A key aspect of motivating employees through goal setting is that the goals must be achievable for the individual for whom they are set. By placing senior managers against an STI which rewarded their ability to influence something which was beyond their roles (whole of organisation performance), the company had unknowingly reversed their STI from a potential motivator of performance to a potential demotivator.

On finding this error discussions were entered into with the Head of HR and reworked remuneration packages were offered and accepted by those impacted. The key to this experience however, is that without the review of data being carried out, the chances are that this error would have gone unsee for at least another incentive round before they were discovered.

Being able to review organisational data on mass provides the analyst with the opportunity to see patterns, not typically picked up when viewing the data on a single employee in isolation. Social sciences has appreciated the power of mass analysis for the past forty years, forgoing the historical single subject experiments in favour of statistically powerful large scale experiments or observational/correlational studies.

Unfortunately, what I see often in HR teams is practitioners focusing on the individual, rather than determining if the incident is firstly an isolated case, or if it is more widespread. This need to determine the scope of the issue is not to undermine the importance of working with employees (who are of course key clients of human resources), but rather to acknowledge that different approaches to problem solving are applied depending on the scale of the issue. Often times I’ve been brought in to assist with scaling a solution, only to determine very quickly that had the scale of the issue first been determined, then the applied solution would never have been considered.


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