SAN DIEGO — "People are not coin-operated," said motivational author Daniel Pink, a frequent speaker on HR-related topics, in his keynote address at the 2011 WorldatWork Total Rewards Conference on May 23.
Turning his attention to employee compensation, Pink, who served as chief speech writer to former Vice President Al Gore, pointed to the British firm Red Gate Software, where the heavily commissioned sales team was challenged by individuals "gaming the system" to earn higher commissions and by recurring problems with collaboration. When individual commissions were replaced with an incentive plan that gave all sales force members a share of the profits at year end, collaboration went up, as did customer satisfaction, Pink said. (He elaborates his views on sales team commissions here.)
Pink urged compensation managers to "challenge the assumption that when you reward behavior, you get more of it, and when you punish behavior, you get less of it. People are not that simple."
It's not that money isn't important, Pink noted, but "people have more sophisticated needs. Human beings are profoundly attuned to the norm of fairness." In viewing total rewards, Pink called for "a wider notion of 'total.'"
"Pay people enough to take money off the table," he advised, and then "focus on the work, not the money," as a motivator.
Employees "can't be controlled into engagement," he contended. But "greater autonomy over their time, their team, their tasks and their work techniques" can lead to increased engagement, productivity and profitability.
Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
New Day, New Leader. Author Dan Pink says business is becoming democratized, requiring a new type of leader who manages people in a more complex and powerful way.
Bad Bonuses? Dan Pink, author of Drive, a book on employee motivation, discusses some of the dramatic flaws often present in executive bonuses.
Pay for Performance: Make It More than a Catch-Phrase, SHRM Online Compensation Discipline, May 2011
Pink: Raise the Employee Engagement Ante, SHRM Online Staffing Management Discipline, April 2011
Pink: Use More than Social Media to Engage Workers, SHRM Online Staffing Management Discipline, May 2010
Forget Carrots and Sticks, They Don't Always Work, The Telegraph, May 2010
Carrots, Sticks and Creativity: A Lesson in Staff Motivation, Toronto Star, April 2010
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