The Work Experience

10 Essential Pillars of Employee Engagement

10 Essential Pillars of Employee Engagement from Dan Benoni
The Work Experience

OKRs and the rule of three

“Google did a great talk about the method they use to keep focused. It’s called “Objectives, Key Results”. Essentially you can have three objectives a quarter; they need to be broad but measurable. Don’t say how you will get there, that’s for the person actioning it to worry about. By limiting ourselves to three objectives I feel freed.”

Advice shared from the buzzing tech valley:

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The Employee-Motivation Checklist via Fast Company

Provide meaning to motivate (purpose), provide feedback, provide opportunities, be fair … you know the score and it all sounds like common sense but many organisations miss the mark. A tidy list to refresh your management sensibilities from

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Do incentives work? Autonomy, mastery, and the purpose (not profit) motive

Do incentives work? Well the answer is yes and no. They work for rudimentary mechanical tasks, but when you up the cognitive anti, incentives fail to motivate. Not only that, they can negatively impact performance. Pay people enough so they are not thinking about money and can instead be free to concentrate on their performance. Also relevant to management practice is the idea of giving people autonomy. Think autonomy, mastery, and the purpose motive. Watch the video to see how this plays out.


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Personnel Economics: The Economist’s View of Human Resources

Monetary incentives are the petri dish where motivation grows in work environments, particularly in sales. Whether the culture that forms is a healthy one or not depends on context. Customers’ expectations of service providers are changing. People expect service not just sales. So how do you design an incentive scheme that supports customer service and results in sales?

I don’t pretend to know the answers. All I know from my experience as a service designer is that incentives (and remuneration) are factors that someone needs to be thinking about when change is being rolled out.

The paper “Personnel Economics: The Economist’s View of Human Resources” provides an overview of HR from an economic perspective. I hope to share enough of it so that you might read the whole piece. Here’s the teaser:

Personnel economics drills deeply into the firm to study human resource management practices like compensation, hiring practices, training, and teamwork. Many questions are asked. Why should pay vary across workers within firms–and how “compressed” should pay be within firms? Should firms pay workers for their performance on the job or for their skills or hours of work? How are pay and promotions structured across jobs to induce optimal effort from employees? Why do firms use teams and how are teams used most effectively? How should all these human resource management practices, from incentive pay to teamwork, be combined within firms? Personnel economics offers new tools and new answers to these questions.

The paper theorises on how pay determines culture in its discussion of piece rate pay versus performance pay. It talks about pay conditions that foster team work and cooperation and the trade-offs that they involve. It’s not all about money though, so the paper also considers “hedonic” factors like prestige, recognition, and working conditions. 

It’s easy to measure the output of sales people, but how “service” is measured needs to be considered if the behaviour of staff needs to change to meet new objectives. 

The article is by Edward P. Lazear and Kathryn L. Shaw can be downloaded via It is available for free for those with access to academic databases. If you don’t have access the paper is $5, and worth every cent.

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Hey Boss — Enough with the Big, Hairy Goals – Bob Sutton – Harvard Business Review

I love Bob Sutton. After reading his book Good Boss, Bad Boss I have become a bit of an acolyte. What I like about him most is the tenacious way he demystifies and deconstructs common management practices. Like goal setting.

For most organizations in most industries, success is measured on well known and accepted yardsticks. Sure, there are differences and they do matter, but ambitious goals rarely send people in directions they didn’t realize they needed to go.

In a post for HBR he questions the value of “big, hairy, audacious goals”. Not only do they state the obvious, he writes, but they provide no practical direction for how employees can achieve them.

A good boss lays out the path to a big goal, and works with people to break it down into objectives that more clearly imply the necessary actions. Focusing attention on the little steps not only clarifies what people need to accomplish on a daily basis, it also allows people to enjoy Small Wins …

… organizations tend to be stymied by big goals that have not been broken into bite-size pieces. Faced with seemingly huge and overwhelmingly difficult challenges, people freeze up or even freak out. So the best bosses not only outline the steps, they talk and act like each is not overly difficult — which quells people’s fears and enhances their confidence that, if they just keep moving, everything will turn out fine. 

Good leaders break down lofty goals into tangible activities so employees can grasp them. In the experience I have had consulting with staff the inability to grasp a big abstract goal can apply to anyone, regardless of their seniority. So break the goal down into:

  • objectives
  • actions
  • hard actions versus easy actions
  • immediate steps
  • and finally, what needs to be accomplished daily for people to enjoy small wins.

Read the original post by Bob Sutton which includes a compelling case study and further references at