This morning I read an interesting post on CompensationCafe from contributor Jim Brennan. It’s a good read that touches on why it’s a mistake to treat money as a hygiene factor (or even disincentive), and later goes on to illustrate via short story how incentives can improve performance outcomes. It’s a short, good read. Check it out here.
With that said, the post also reminded me of the problems inherent to using ill-thought out incentives:
Earlier in my career I worked as a recruiter. For a few months of my tenure with the group, getting down time-to-fill was a an important goal for some of the management team. As such, when this number climbed too high for any given requisition, the member of the team responsible for filling the job knew he or she would be hearing about it.
Conversely, low time-to-fill numbers were met with praise and (presumably) higher performance reviews. Consequently, recruiters found ways to close and re-open requisitions that crept close to or above the days to fill threshold. Among other thing things, they would suggest changing parts of the job description and then re-posting the position as new to the hiring manager (thus resetting the clock), and “merge” reqs with two similar positions by closing the older requisition and adding its headcount to the newer one. Focusing on incentivizing the wrong thing here didn’t just (indirectly) damage the integrity of the data being measured; it also prevented us from identifying the source of the problem.
Eventually, time-to-fill was de-emphasized and focus was placed on providing incentives that more objectively improved performance. I never forgot the “time-to-fill” lesson, though: Ultimately, an employer will more or less get what it pays for.
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