It’s Friday. I’m having a week. I’ve spent the last couple of days sitting by my spouse’s bedside in the hospital, trying to get work done and still be attentive. Nothing serious but still a bit of a speed bump in the week. Therefore, I’m embracing my lazy and pulling out a post I wrote in September of 2006!!!!  Over 15 years ago!

I almost get depressed thinking how much time I’ve spent on this blog over time. Le sigh. 

But here you go… gold from the archives!

Skill-Aligned Goals

It is now common knowledge that having a company (and by definition people) that can be innovative, process change quickly and learn new skills to support those changes is critical for any company to succeed and prosper.  Your audience (employees/salespeople/channel) need to be constantly learning and growing if they are to add any value to an organization.  And many companies performance incentives to new concepts and processes in order to focus attention and energy on these new initiatives. 

While conceptually it is a good idea, this article (download complete study here) from Harvard Business School highlights some of the tensions that exist between learning and performance.  Specifically, as one acquires new skills and knowledge, implementation of those skills is hit-and-miss.  No one is proficient immediately.

This has implications for incentive program design. 

Design For Where Your Audience IS – Not Where They Will Be

If you are putting an incentive in place to motivate and influence your employees to adopt a new system or use new skills, set the performance bar low at first and gradually increase the goal over time.  This allows your audience to be rewarded for using the new ideas without penalty and grow into the final goal over time. 

Far too many programs begin by setting the bar at the “optimal” level of performance (normally to show a return on the cost of the learning/training) – but as this study indicates, performance may actually decline at first as the new information is processed, applied and incorporated into ongoing activity.

No one would expect their child to jump out of their crib at 18 months and begin sprinting around the house. 

No different for your program participants. 

Give them space to experiment and reward the small steps for a while before putting unreasonable goals in front of them.

What to chat more about how this program structure could work? Just click this link and we can talk through how to dumb down your program together.