Forget the carrot and the stick. Think onion

By Paolo Barbesino, PhD

Forget the carrot and the stick. Think onion

In the last few years, new organizational models emerged to cope with a business environment that has become increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Geopolitical seismic shifts, technology, regulatory, and new customer and employee behaviour and expectations are the main theme of change.

Led by some of the big techs like Amazon and Netflix, this change has spread to other industries like FSI. A bank like DBS in Singapore is globally leading the pack, proving the even in an error-prevention industry a better way of working is possible. Other players are committing to such an existential shift.

Organizational change is possible when all dimensions are organically taken care of through the transformation process:

  • People. How individuals are hired, developed and retained (skills & culture) in the organization
  • Architecture. Organization design, including how it is divided and how they interact
  • Routines. Processes and procedures that are followed daily within an organization
  • Culture. Shared values, beliefs, and behaviors that shape the way people think, feel
  • Technology. Platforms used for the very core business, and for shaping the way people work

A key success factor is going beyond the ‘carrot vs stick’ approach for motivation, where the carrot is a reward for compliance and the stick is a consequence for noncompliance. This calls for a new dialogue that hinges upon the key concept that motivation is less about employees doing great work and more about employees feeling great about their work. The better your people feel about their work, the more motivated they remain over time.

This pivot calls for: 

  • Providing context to enhance motivation. Employees are deeply motivated when they comprehend the significance of their tasks beyond just profit. Explain the purpose of their work, its relevance, and the broader organizational goals. Highlight how each role contributes to overall success. Understanding the importance of their tasks bolsters motivation.
  • Addressing potential challenges promptly. Team members will face obstacles in any significant task. These hurdles can hinder motivation. Actively identify and mitigate these challenges. Ensure that the work process is smooth and free from unnecessary disruptions. A clear path boosts motivation.
    – Valueing and acknowledge efforts. Instead of just rewards or penalties, genuine recognition of contributions inspires lasting motivation. Acknowledge milestones, exceptional achievements, and those who exemplify organizational values. When employees feel valued for their efforts, their motivation soars.

But you won’t be able to achieve all this if you don’t first ask yourself what gets you out of bed every morning.