Rewarding Through Development

Neil Morrison raised an interesting question this week on his blog, why is there so little talk about reward? He gave me the opportunity to rant (again?!) about pay secrecy and why I think it sucks, and Lee Haury chipped in too with a great point about balanced scorecards, performance management and the twisted way they link to pay and screw up team performance at the same time. Well worth a read.

I also checked in over at Paul Hebert‘s place and read a good piece on why even though a lot of managers rate cash as king when it comes to incentives, it isn’t the best award, experiences are. I agree with Paul that cash is a lousy motivator beyond having enough, and for sure the sense of entitlement it creates is a biiig problem. My recent trip to the US earned me enough money – but for sure it was all the experiences I soaked up along the way that motivate me and energise and engage me.

This stuff has got me thinking about if and how development could be a more important part of the reward picture. Personal and career development opportunities, and particularly the lack of them, often comes up as a problem in employee surveys, and I don’t see much evidence of the problem being addressed. Could the idea of being given complete flexibility and choice over your some or even all of your development budget be a great way of recognising/motivating people?

I think this should go over and above the oft quoted ‘Google 20% time‘, in so far as it could extend to whatever development the individual felt would be helpful. So if someone wants to learn bookbinding, let them. If someone wants to learn to paint, let them. If someone wants to learn to cook, coach, build spreadsheets (seriously??), develop products, study law, ride a bike, let them. Can we devise a simple scheme whereby the employer provides access and investment both financially and through making time available to people, as a means of rewarding performance?

I’d like to think creative, clever people would be attracted to an employer who offered that kind of latitude around personal development in the belief that happy people with chances to self determine would be more likely to deliver better business results. How about it? And if you already see it going on, how’s it working out?

photo credit

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

8 thoughts on “Rewarding Through Development”

  1. Hey Doug! I think underpinning that work/reward equation is a fundamental need around money which you just can’t substitute. Once the money side is “satisfied” then you can add in the extras as so many companies do (e.g. flexible benefits).

    Here’s the thing though… I don’t think learning & development is a reward. It’s our prime purpose. It doesn’t supplant our physiological needs (I’m thinking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) – beyond that baseline what else is there but to learn & develop.

    So to reframe the present, aren’t we penalising people in the workplace by not developing them?

    Funnily enough I think this recent post from @KateGL is connected to this same issue… what do you think?

    1. Hi David thanks for popping by. I guess to some extent it depends how you define ‘reward’ as to how L&D fits into the picture.

      Personally I don’t see L&D as ‘our prime purpose’, to me it’s more about behaviour and tools that can help us a) be more curious, b) help satisfy that curiosity and c) become better equipped to be of service to others. I’d love to know what others think about that too.

      In writing this I was keen to see if the concept of self determined self development which was funded by your company might be a useful way to attract and retain people. Feels worth exploring to me but I’m starting to think I’m ploughing a lone (or at least very quiet) furrow on this. I will read Kate’s blog – thanks for the link.

      1. You’re not ploughing a lone furrow Doug but when you sow the seeds you do need to wait and see what comes 🙂

        I think when you mention L&D in your response you mean the organisational function. In my comments I actually meant learning & development, and most definitely not the organisational function or the tools it could provide. Hence my comment about how our prime purpose as humans (beyond satisfying physiological needs) is to learn & develop. Life as a journey if you know what I mean.

        Self determined self development as a reward is probably where I see the issue as it infers that self determined self development is not already part of the deal in organisations. My assertion is that people are being “penalised” already so dressing it up as a reward feels like an issue… isn’t self determined self development a right that organisations should already support? Does that make sense?

        The retention angle to organisational Learning & Development initiatives is quite familiar. Where it fails is where organisations don’t walk the talk i.e. they try but fail to actively and tangibly deliver on developing their people. The underlying issues around why this is the case can’t be solved through funding employee learning & development. Personally I think this links back to my comments above…

        If you get it you are already doing it. If you’re not already doing it you don’t get it and there’s an underlying issue to deal with first.

        Does that help?!?

        1. Good point about seeds, as an occasional grower of fruit and veg I should know better.

          No I didn’t mean the function, I meant the….practice itself. Probably wasn’t being clear enough but that’s why I included behaviour as part of it all – and I don’t agree that our prime purpose is to learn and develop. It’s important for sure and yep – life is/as a journey – it fits in there very definitely.

          Absolutely I agree organisations should support self determined self development and I’m struggling to think of any organisations that do, at least in the way I’ve suggested it. Would be great if you and others could show examples of where companies allocate time and budget to employees for this.

          I’m starting to regret using the word reward – I did so as a follow on from Neil’s post which was what got me thinking about this in the first place. I don’t see people’s pay as reward either – so perhaps I should reframe it as ‘the deal’, what the employer provides by way of compensation for effort put in and productivity delivered. That way I think we are largely in agreement…at least I think we are 🙂

          Cheers – Doug

          1. Didn’t want to distract the post further so wrote about primary purpose here :


            Hope you don’t mind me sharing and would value your input!

            Thinking about organisations that reward with learning a large client does this in a manner of speaking. They hold a range of teach-ins/workshops on an array of workplace topics and soft skills. Open to anyone who wants to come, they’ve not got as far as knitting courses but it’s a step in the right direction.

            A previous employer worked with various community and 3rd sector organisations to either work on projects or to provide mentoring using executives from the organisation. There was a mutual benefit as well as a CSR one but it shows that some organisations see development away from the organisation as beneficial.

            Neither are quite what you described but are they good enough?

          2. I welcome you sharing your link, absolutely David – thanks. The examples you’ve shared are certainly useful though you’re right, they don’t fit the aspiration I had, and that certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t worth sharing thanks. Connecting with the community at large through development and CSR is a good thing to do too and I’ve seen lots of places work this well.

  2. Mmmm … nice thread.

    People go to work to earn enough to enable them to pursue a quality of life for them and their family. Remember the epitaph that no-one wants …. “I wish I’d spent more time at work”.

    Salary is the biggest bone of contention between employees and employers because for one it is profit and for the other it is loss (not literally but you know what I mean). I have heard on so many occasions that salaries are being externally benchmarked and then you take one look at the job boards and see very similar jobs paying more …. do they think we can’t read? Rant over ……

    For me, L&D or the Google20% is important AFTER the basics, as in money, are neutralised. We all know that engagement is 20% culture and 80% climate for employees. If the climate ain’t right, it doesn’t matter what you offer me as an employee, I’m not engaged! This is why in my view a company offering a load of add-ons is wasting their time if they haven’t got the climate right. Now if I’m engaged, then one of the most valuable things my employer can offer me is the chance to grow, develop and pursue those things that interest me as a human being. I don’t think that is a prime purpose, but is it a kind of reward for delivering what the employer wants if it is not necessarily directly related to the job. If it is, then it’s training which is good but not necessarily so rewarding from a personal development perspective.

    So I think I agree with everyone in part 🙂

    1. Seems you do Chris – I like the way you’ve commented, and you and David are both right about the money thing, sort that as best you can then if the climate is right, provide opportunities, possibly for growth and development. The important thing for me at least is the chance for me to choose freely, whether it be job related or not – that’s where I think the excitement could be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *