The Cost Of Asking For More

The Cost Of Asking For More

An article like this would normally start with a reminiscent scene from Oliver Twist, an orphan, meekly asking for "more" food only to have the man standing over the gruel yell back "more?"...sadly it doesn't apply in this case. It is normal in a business to challenge the status quo, to push for improvement and to measure your employees performance against this, but at what cost? It has become a question often raised in banking, finance and wealth management as to whether they ask too much from their employees and as a concequence impact on their customers. The more important question I feel, is should we only be looking at banking or business as a whole? Having worked in mining, manufacturing, gas and retail I can honestly say that "more" is the norm and it has not escaped me that many employees did damage to the business, brand and to the work environment in pursuit of selected goals that didn't appear to have any basis in logic, realism, fact or precedent that were set for them. It is with this in mind that I think we should consider the stark reality that, whether intended or not, perhaps we have fostered a culture where businesses unwittingly create a bully in a schoolyard scenario with the business and management standing over the employees' asking for their lunch money when you pin your core business targets to an employee's Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) where this directly impacts on their ability to get wage growth or bonuses.

As a business owner, manager or superivsor it is important to understand the risks of making wildly inappropriate goals for your employees or reports. By asking your employees to focus on business end goals you can do alot of damage by having them focus on acheiving those outcomes in unpredictable ways that often benefit the employee rather than the business. This is not as much of an issue when the goals and targets are acheiveable but consider that an employees targets are generally set for a year and if circumstances change they are fighting to achieve what is potentially out of reach. Employees generally see KPIs in one of three ways, they don't care about them, they care because they see a financial benefit or they take them to be an assessment of their personal performance or a way to demonstrate acheivement. KPIs have long been used as a way to motivate employees to perform but rarely have I seen them implemented in a way that actually achieved the desired effect or provided any benefit in the way intended. Often supervisors made them generic which left little in the way of measuring your own performance and at best became a tedious process that neither you nor your supervisor gained any real benefit from. The conversations that you had about your performance were usually long overdue citing areas of improvement which would have been a benefit several months ago or cited where you did well but generally had nothing to do with the KPIs that were set. This ignores the fact that often scores were usually "moderated" which was effectively a way of saying that your scores were decided before your review and when you performed off the charts this was casually ignored.

While KPIs don't mean much when times are good they are usually wielded like a weapon when times are tough or the business have to push hard to see growth. They are often used as a way of pushing employees to squeeze blood from stone and generally always focus on the one thing the business wants more of. My favourite target in mining is the amount of tonnes you produce, such an innocent target with the capacity to impact on the business in so many ways. So the question I ask is if a process plant is designed to produce X tonnes and it now produces beyond that, is it fair of the business to always ask it to produce more? It is great to push the envelope to look at ways to improve...until morale is low, resources have been cut where coverage is an issue, gold standard business practices are thrown to the wind to cut costs and still the business wants more. This is where the bully analogy comes in...if you ask your employees to give something they feel they can't they can react in one of three ways, they quit, they ignore what you ask them avoiding it or the fight / flight response kicks in. It is the fight/flight scenario that is most concerning as it means the person is motivated greatly by fear or anger and usually this goes on unnoticed with reduced supervision and high stress. A person motivated by fear is very motivated to escape the scenario they are in but when they are not under supervision then this is where people make rash, stupid decisions that result in short term gains. The damage caused by the short term gains may or may not go unnoticed, not to mention that once the person has done this they are likely looking to leave as well before it comes back to bite them. The more concerning of the two is the fight oriented response, which are actions taken by an employee who is angry or who is now heavily motivated to give you what you want. These employees make decisions which are usually considered, damaging and may even fall into the criminal category but likely go unchecked and they "give you what you want" in the most unpredictable of ways. It might not surprise you that these are the people you might keep, promote or reward as they do what you ask...

Interesting isn't it, we as a society try hard to stamp out bullying, discrimination and harassment, yet by the very nature of how we manage our employees we may just be creating that culture ourselves. Royal Commissions don't come along every day but, when they do, it is time to look at how we operate and question whether we are actually making our businesses run better? The Banking Industry, Mining Industry and Telecommunications Industries will be a great test of whether dramatic change leads to better business, but in the end we seem to repeat one major mistake...we remember to measure our employees to manage them but rarely do businesses who make dramatic change measure the success of their structural changes well or at all. So I guess in the end I am still left with the question, what is the cost of asking for more? The answer as far as I'm concerned is that the concequences of asking for too much are unacceptable to me and our business. If you are interested in finding out more about what we can do for you then please feel free to visit our main website or contact us. Thank you for your time, for reading our blog post and it would be great if you feel the need to share or like our articles via one of our social media platforms with the @ActsIntuitively tag as applies.

Brent Webster
Technical Services Manager

Bunbury, WA

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