I remember hearing that we, as a society, are distrustful. The person telling me this said it was partly because when we were kids our parents promised us something (like a chocolate bar) if we did something (like clean our room). Then, the promising parent hopes that we (a) clean our room, and (b) forget that they promised a chocolate bar.
We didn’t forget, though. Multiply that times a hundred, maybe a thousand, and we lose trust in authority. We lose trust in promises. We love our parents (usually), but we just don’t trust when they say they are going to do this, achieve that, or that we’ll take that big, fun family vacation. This loss of trust carries over to teachers and bosses, even spouses. It’s sad, but we are conditioned to trust.
When I heard this I vowed to not promise my kids anything. I know that might seem extreme, but I’ve loved not having any promises. I don’t want to have my kids say, as I’m tucking them into bed (well, I don’t do that anymore, but I did for years), “Dad, you promised we would go to the park today! Can we go now??”
Instead of promises, I just did my best to actually do things, and not put off rewards or outcomes based on how I was feeling. I was no longer obligated to keeping my promises (because I didn’t make any) that I might have made when I had more money, or hope, or energy.
I’m NOT saying that you shouldn’t ever make promises. I’m just saying that this worked well for me. My point is not whether or not you make promises, it is that we have an opportunity to help our employees increase trust in who we are, what we say, and how we act and react.
You build trust when you deliver on what you said you would deliver on. When you commit to a new program or system at work, put significant effort and support into it. This is tricky because you definitely need to listen to your team, get feedback, and adjust or pivot. But don’t start a new thing and then after a couple of weeks, after the honeymoon period has faded, just forget about it, only to start another program. I’ve seen this in different organizations I’ve worked at. The unintended consequence is that your team eventually believes that every new program will die after two or three weeks. Why invest their time in something that you won’t support?
The trust fades. Their confidence in your leadership and management erodes. And this, of course, impacts the culture.
I never want to overhear any of my team say, “Yeah, right!” about something I’m excited about, thinking that, just like other programs, I’ll soon abandon it. I’d rather I overhear “Jason said we’re going to do this, and so I know it’s going to be successful.”
This culture of trust happens when leadership intentionally chooses the right systems and programs, which requires research and analysis. Then, when launching you see their commitment to get through any wrinkles and get the system up and running the way they think it should. They stick through the hard parts. Finally, they integrate it into other parts of the organization, so it’s not just this after-thought, but it becomes a part of everything they do.
Look, I don’t want to give our competition any hints on how to run a successful incentives system, but a big part of your rewards program’s success (or failure) is in the paragraphs above. We know that features and tools and reports are important… we’ve heard that from plenty of people we talk to who are moving away from other incentives programs. But even with the best program out there, when leadership is not fully behind your rewards program it is likely doomed.
When we bring on new customers we talk about this, and other things, that help make the incentives program more successful. There are a lot of factors that could impact success, and we work hard to create a program for your organization that lasts for years and years.
Want to talk to us about your incentives program, and how to make it better? We’d love to chat.