To Focus Employees on Innovation, Align Their Goals and Compensation

The ability to deliver new value requires systemic evolution in business strategy, culture, organizational design, and customer awareness. Employees can and will deliver new customer value, but the way they are paid and directed must change first and then the results will follow.

People perform the way they are compensated to perform. If an enterprise is structured and compensates its people to be creative, it receives creativity from them. If the company preaches that creativity and innovation are valued but don’t align their compensation and employee goal setting with these objectives, not surprisingly, very little innovation happens.

With all of the downsizing, offshoring, and Six Sigma/Lean that people have been living through for the past 20 years, they have learned to, “keep their eyes inside the boat” and not to stray too far from their defined goals and objectives.

People who are engaged in profit-orientated businesses are, for the most part, employed to perform specific types of tasks. Whether the task is on a production line or producing invoices, people develop a set of skills and sell those skills to an employer. So it should come as no surprise that the employees of a company are focused on what they are compensated to produce. If people are not compensated or rewarded in some way to be creative, to produce changes that delight a customer, and to find new opportunity areas, why would anyone expect them to do so?

A variety of tools have emerged over the years to assist managers in directing their employees’ efforts. Key performance indicators, 360 degree performance, management by objectives. Do any of these ring a bell? Performance management should be focused on setting goals that are aligned with business strategy, extending a person’s skill set, and aligning resources to achieve business strategy.

Most people are compensated based on their ability to achieve a predetermined set of goals and objectives. Managers review employee performance based on their ability to meet the goals. Many, many words are being written currently about organizations delivering innovation. Executives are refocusing their attention on delivering new value to their customers, but how many executives are looking at the way they compensate their people? It doesn’t make much sense to tell people to be creative, to discover opportunities, to increase customer value when these same people are being paid to deliver completely different things.

If business strategy requires new products, services, or business models to extend its competitive advantage, it also requires new ways to focus and reward the people who work for the enterprise. If people are compensated based on their ability to complete tasks, it isn’t logical to also expect them to create new things unless they are rewarded and recognized for this ability.

The ability to deliver new value to the customer (i.e., innovation) requires systemic evolution in business strategy, culture, organizational design, and customer awareness. Employees can and will deliver new customer value, but the way they are paid and directed must change first and then the results will follow.

By Chuck Frey

About the author


Chuck Frey Senior Editor, founded InnovationTools.com and served as its publisher from its launch in 2002 until the partnership with Innovation Management in 2012. He is the publisher of The Mind Mapping Software Blog, the definitive souce for news, trends, tips and best practices for visual mapping tools. A journalist by trade, Chuck has over 14 years of experience in online marketing, and over 10 years experience in business-to-business public relations. His interests include creative problem solving, visual thinking, photography, business strategy and technology. His unique combination of experience and influences enables him to envision new possibilities and opportunities.

Image: business team from Shutterstock.com

  • Richojr

    This article states well that typical compensation is based on inside the box objectives, watering down the focus on innovation and creativity. It does not offer any suggestions about how to reframe the incentives for employees.

  • http://www.MeetingSphere.se Pierre Wettergren

    There are solutions that empower people to adapt workflows to new conditions in real-time! This ability allow organizations to leverage the business development and market alignments using all the human capital they have in the workforce. However, it requires a leadership that doesn’t place mental or structural constraints on people!

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