I had the privilege of seeing Dan Pink and Marcus Buckingham speak live in the UK last year at an event we ran. Two main points came out of this conference for me:

1. If you pay people enough, can you take the matter of financial reward off the table?
Dan Pink suggested that rather than create a bonus culture whereby individuals are constantly worried about their performance to ensure that they are financially rewarded sufficiently to support their lifestyle, why not increase their pay so that the issue of salary is taken off the table. The outcome of this is that employees can focus on their actual productivity without the added worry of income. In principal, I agree with this idea, not being a salesman myself, the theory is that a person should be paid what they are worth without having to forward plan their home life around a certain point in the year when a bonus may or may not be paid. On the flip side though, a friend of mine made the point that if this were to be the case, would it allow an employer the ability to recoup pay if they did underperform? Could you imagine a scenario where you got paid for the full year and then were asked to repay back some of your salary due to poor performance?

2. This leads onto the second major point which was made by Dan and Marcus: Play to your strengths. Marcus suggested that too much time is spent focusing on improving employees weaknesses, which is the wrong approach. You should play to people’s strengths, IE find out what they are good at and enjoy and drive them to utilise these abilities. Everyone knows that you enjoy working to things you are good at and reluctantly do things that you are weaker at. This is not to say that you can ignore aspects of your job that you are not successful at or happy doing, but try to surround yourself with others that can fill that gap. This is the sign of a good leader. Someone who can identify what your strengths are and the strength of others and combine them together to create a successful ethos and working environment is a truly effective leader. Dan complimented this idea by saying that he has seen many companies now implement 20% time, or a FedEx day. This essentially is whereby a company allocates part of the working week to putting down whatever work they are doing and spend it on something which an employee enjoys doing, or feels they can develop something for the betterment of the business. He says people don’t learn to play the guitar or overhaul the engine of their favourite car for financial reward in their free time, they do it because they want to…..so if you can encourage your staff to use this same idea to generate ideas or products for the company they are employed by, in their own style with no boundaries then you will eventually see the benefits. He used Google as a prime example, many of the ideas, which are now Google products have come out of this 20% time and I personally can see how this might work. However, there is a fine balancing act in ensuring that this "free time" is not wasted…..how do you monitor the productivity? What do you do if someone does not use this time effectively? I think it all comes back to the social environment in which people work. If they enjoy their job and feel they can contribute to the business, then they are more likely to use this time wisely.


From all of this, one could say that if you pay people what they are worth, give them the tools and resources to work in an environment they enjoy and back this up with a manager or leader who can inspire, then all things being considered you would have a successful business at the end of the day.

Charlie, editor of HR Zone also wrote a great report on the Manchester event and can be found by searching for Marcus Buckingham on this site.

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