Rewarding people is always a bit fraught. Several things can happen, sometimes at the same time. First the rewards can come to be expected, so they aren’t rewards any more, then people get very pissed off when they don’t happen for whatever reason. Then you could be the kind of idiot who rewards some and not others, makes them compete for your largesse. That’s even sillier. If there are winners then there will be losers. No-one likes to do their job and be a loser. Everyone expects to be rewarded, and given a gold start a plus rating. But the thing is, who created the environment they have to work with?
You did. You unwittingly set the limits on what they can do because it’s a straight jacket that will hold them and forever limit what they can achieve. If you’re lucky, maybe ten per cent of the time they will make a difference, the ten per cent you can’t control. The bigger the organisation the bigger the anomaly. Big organisations need consistency before they need great performance or they can’t plan, don’t know what to do with the extraordinary, and can’t deal with it. The extraordinary doesn’t scale. Everything is very fair, and nobody gets what they need. While all this nonsense is going on you’re losing out to much smaller organisations that aren’t limited by the drive for normal.
Some idiots think they have understood the dance of numbers and say you must always lop off your worse performing people every few months. This would be funny if it wasn’t so mad. If they perform badly it’s your fault. No amount of bullying and threatening will make them any better. The human cost of this stupidity is also astonishingly high, you will never get the best out of folks who are always worried they’re going to be fired for things that are completely out of their control. This is because your system prevents them from doing so. You’re punishing, and getting rid of people who are perfectly good at what they do. It also means that the only evaluation score anyone should have is adequate – most things are out of their control, so adequate is all they can be.
Think about it.
So, assuming you believe that humans can do truly amazing things, and indeed don’t have to just be some hideous version of a corporate adequate how do you square this circle? How do you even recognise that it is a circle?
You must start from three things. First, recognise that what you do is part of a system of things that you can’t always control. Second, you must be brave enough to let the system belong to everybody who is affected by it. Third, you must start with people’s needs. The needs of the people you’re serving come first. The cheapest, most effective, blah di fucking blah system you can build starts with the needs of the people who are served by it.
When you know the needs you know what to do, and you also know what a true version of adequate is. This means that an idiot politician can’t just announce services will be cut (or even given more resources). First you must identify the needs, identify what the bare minimum is and codify it in some measurable way. Not targets, just knowing that the right things are happening.
Only then can a system be built to meet those needs, and only then can it be improved upon.
It isn’t hard, but it’s also not the trivial task people pretend it is.