No Carrot, No Stick; No Movement

I don’t recall anyone getting into trouble when I was in elementary school. About the worst thing that could happen to you was the principal calling your home and letting your parents deal with whatever you had done.

In high school there were more serious ramifications for misbehavior. For minor offenses, there was detention, a mind numbing experience.

Transgressions escalated to calls home, a physical paddling by the assistant principal (“swats”), suspension and finally being expelled to another high school.

In the school environment, any adult could call you out for bad behavior with swift judgment and punishment.

These things were part of the “stick” that motivated students to stay on course and obtain the stated objectives; good on-campus behavior, solid attendance and academic achievement.

Most students could see the “carrot” at home, living in a nice house, with utilities, food to eat and a warm, safe place to sleep at night.

The unspoken, ultimate carrot was the hope of realizing an even better life as an adult than your parents enjoyed. That path was revealed as you grew older by role models, living and fictional.

How one achieved the carrot was through study and work on school assignments outside of the academic day, also known as homework.

Progress was measured by your grades. If you were motivated enough, you could address any number of variables impacting your report card. If you were satisfied, you could simply continue doing what you had done.

Post school you went for more schooling or you went directly into the workforce, hopefully having learned the requirements and lessons of success.

These days, there are few sticks in schools as there were before and the carrot(s) don’t seem to be as strong of an influence. No one is to blame for any of this; it is simply how it is.

But if you ask the owner of a business what makes it hard to succeed these days it is when your employees aren’t happy. Unhappy employees don’t serve clients as well as happy employees do.

Unhappy employees are no where near as productive as unhappy employees. Why aren’t your employees happy? They haven’t seen a raise in a long time.

Carrots are missing; in some cases appear to have vanished. Raises are very hard to come by and bonuses are rare. That will not stop employees from asking for a pay increase. They’ll always be asking.

Owners need to be able to explain why a raise isn’t an option. Larger forces may be at work that the employee needs to be educated about, c9mpetition, inflation, mature business conditions, uncertainty, rising costs of being in business.

Often, the only way some employees can increase their purchasing power is by changing employers.

Sticks still exist. When things were really bad an employer could get away with saying, “You’re lucky to have a job.” While crass, it was true even though people did not like to say it and other people liked hearing it even less.

It’s difficult to move a company forward with disgruntled employees.

The challenge is to replace sticks and the carrots with something to create happier employees and get things moving.

One client, facing a “no raise” situation, implemented a simple pay for performance system. Employees and managers worked side by side to accomplish the goals, receiving monthly bonus checks as appropriate. Over time, thee goals have changed and payout formulas have been tweaked.

What has happened is that morale has improved, the employees are happier and there is more focus on taking care of the company’ clients.

Does the potential exist for your company to implement something similar to reengage employees, eliminate sticks and offer new, appealing carrots? Yes, but only if you are open to making it happen.