Financial Targets Don’t Motivate Employees

Would you be excited if your boss started a meeting saying: “I want to remind you that you’re a cog in a machine whose primary purpose is to hit our financial targets”?

It’s hard to imagine that you would feel much joy or pride of ownership in your work if your contribution was reduced to your financial output. While this specific wording may be a bit exaggerated, it’s not a far departure from the message that many employees hear on a daily basis.

As we move into what (we hope) will be a growth period, it’s natural for leaders to emphasize the importance of hitting financial targets. Financial performance is crucial, of course. But making numbers the centerpiece of your leadership narrative is a costly mistake.

Financial results are an outcome, not a root driver for employee performance. A growing body of evidence tells us that overemphasizing financial targets erodes morale and undermines long-term strategy. When a leader spends the majority of their airtime on a “make the numbers” narrative, it creates a transactional relationship with their employees, making them more likely to create transactional relationships with their teammates and customers.

The events of 2020 remind us: Employee engagement is the lifeblood of an organization. What your team thinks, feels, and believes about your organization, and their own work, drives their behavior — and their behavior is what determines your success or failure.

Leaders seeking to ignite creativity and drive exponential effort must go upstream, using their time with their teams to build belief in the organizational purpose, the intrinsic value of the employees’ work, and the impact the teams have on customers, and each other. Here are three ways to do that:

1. Evaluate your leadership “airtime.”

When Mike Gianoni took over as the CEO of SaaS firm Blackbaud, he flipped the way they conduct town halls. Previous leaders spent the majority of their airtime sharing financial results. Gianoni took a different approach. He began using his time to discuss the impact Blackbaud was having on customers, and he directed his leaders to do the same.

“Shifting our airtime from internal metrics to customer outcomes jump-started the next level of customer empathy and value,” explains Blackbaud President and GM Patrick Hodges. “Over time, your attrition goes down. When people feel good about what they do and they’re more successful, they’re not going to look for another job.”

We recommend leaders aim for a 50/50 split, spending at least half their leadership airtime building belief in the meaning and external impact of the work, and half on internal metrics and deliverables. It’s not without coincidence that six months after Blackbaud adjusted their leadership airtime, they had an innovation breakthrough, employee engagement rose dramatically, market share increased, and revenue grew exponentially.

2. Discuss individual customers with emotion and specificity.

The more clearly an employee understands their direct impact, the more likely they are to go the extra mile; they also experience greater fulfillment in doing so.

Consider this research from organizational psychologist Adam Grant, who studied paid employees at a public university call center who were hired to solicit donations to the school from alumni. He divided the team into two groups. One group went about their day as usual, phoning potential donors. The other group, before jumping on the phones, had a short conversation with a scholarship student, someone who was able to get an education because of donations that the call center produced. After a month, callers who had spoken with the scholarship recipient spent more than two times as many minutes on the phone, and brought in vastly more money: a weekly average of $503.22, up from $185.94.

The same findings have been echoed in studies of lifeguards, hospital workers, and sales teams. When we know our work matters to an individual person, we rise to the occasion. Discussing customers in the aggregate does not create the same emotional pull. Instead, when you speak about customers, even if your team does not interact with them directly, use their real names, talk about the businesses they have, and show your team that real people are counting on them.

3. Resist the pull of the “FYI.” 

In our consulting practice we routinely observe well-intended leaders who in an effort “to keep their team informed” pass along everything that pertains to financial performance. It’s natural, because the gravitational pull of most organizations leans towards the numbers; it’s what gets reported and thus it’s routinely forwarded down.

But when a leader send their team decks filled with financial targets employees are often left to their own devices to figure out how to translate broader financial goals into their daily behavior. It’s confusing at best, dispiriting at worst.

Emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman says, “A primary task of leadership is to direct attention. To do so, leaders must learn to focus their own attention.” Instead of routinely hitting forward on every financial report, think about where you want to direct the attention of your team.

You can decide what to share and what not to share by asking yourself questions like: What does my team need to be thinking about on a daily basis to accomplish these goals? How do I want them to behave with customers and each other? Filter out the noise coming from other places in the organization and focus your language on the two things that are 100% within the control of your team: their mindset and their behavior.

The research is telling us what we already knew in our hearts to be true: You cannot spreadsheet your way to passion. With ambitious goals on the horizon, it’s tempting to double-down on financial metrics. But hitting financial targets requires employees who are excited and care about their work.

As we face a future of potential uncertainty and unrest, it’s crucial for leaders to help their teams stay engaged. You can improve your team’s performance (and their emotional well-being) by making sure your airtime, your metrics, and your language communicate one simple message: Your work matters.

Six Reasons For More Aussie Women To Join The Tech Industry

The significance of gender diversity in the workplace is no secret and nowhere is the gender divide more apparent than in the tech sector.

This has long-term implications for the tech sector as studies show that the more diverse perspectives there are in the room, the better the ideas, outcomes and ultimately the bottom line.

The recent Women in STEM Decadal Plan found only 27 per cent of girls in Australia are likely to undertake science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects in school – the lowest of all Asia-Pacific countries.

“The future of work will be dominated by STEM, but there is a huge shortage of these skills in Australia, with many organisations looking overseas to hire top tech talent,” says Rachel Gately, Co-Founder of Australian advanced machine learning company, Trellis Data. “The IT industry has long been dominated by men, but with digital technologies becoming more prevalent, there’s never been a better time for women to consider a job in the tech sector.”

If you’re thinking about a career in tech, here are six things you need to consider:

Financial stability

The technology sector often tops lists for high salaries and job opportunities – Seek’s latest data found ICT had the jobs with the highest pay in Australia. With COVID-19 forcing organisations to embrace digital, technology jobs are now in a stronger position compared to many other industries. The Federal Government is also investing over one billion dollars in the nation’s technology and innovation capabilities, so not only is there good money but job security is also assured. With strong demand for tech talent, there is more scope for women to build a career and progress quickly.

Work-life balance

There’s been a significant shift in work culture in recent years, with parents sharing responsibilities and employees expecting better work-life balance. Businesses now offer greater support for women, allowing them to work from home, part-time, or even providing on-site childcare.

Workplace flexibility has also accelerated over the last 12 months due to the pandemic. This means there is greater opportunity for women to not just enter the tech industry, but to reach senior positions.

According to Gately, “Providing work-life balance is no longer a perk for employers but a must-have. We encourage staff to work the hours that they’re most productive. Some leave work early to coach their kids in sport or pick-up kids from school. Others start late because they prefer to work later. Having women in leadership ensures this attitude towards flexibility is ingrained in company culture.”

Technology needs women

Despite a growing number of jobs in STEM, only a quarter of graduates in technology in the developed world are female – even though more women have degrees than men. So, there is a huge window for women to bridge the gender divide. Science has also found that women have higher intuitiveness and empathy than men, which are traits often missing when developing tech products – female led innovation creates tech with more people in mind. In fact, women are found to be better at connecting tech with business outcomes – according to Fortune, women-led companies have historically performed three times better than those with male CEOs.

Never get bored

We know that technology moves fast. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report found 65 per cent of children starting primary school now, will have jobs that don’t exist yet. This digital future means there is always something new to learn, and scope to get creative to find new solutions. “A career in tech means you’ll never be bored,” says Gately. “We’re always looking for fresh ideas, so my staff have creative freedom to invent and discover new things in technology and machine learning – we specifically set aside time for this each week. It helps foster an environment where people can constantly learn and where everyone has a voice.”

Change the world

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the internet of things aren’t just transforming businesses but also being used to improve lives. In Russia, Impulse Neiry is using world-first neural interfaces to detect neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s several years in advance, and NASA technology is being used to conserve endangered whale sharks. Tech companies such as Google are also now leading investments in clean energy. There are so many ways to help people, animals and the planet using tech, and women have the potential to be a part of it.

Empower other women

According to a Microsoft survey, girls in the US consider tech careers at age 11 but lose interest soon after, with many blaming a lack of female mentors and gender diversity. With more women taking on STEM roles, we have the power to challenge the status quo and increase the voices of women in the industry. By considering a career in tech, you can empower more young girls to get involved. As a woman in tech, you have the opportunity to present in public forums, share your story with others and raise your profile in the industry.

Rachel Gately

Rachel Gately is the Co-Founder and Director of Operations at Trellis Data, a leading Australian advanced Machine Learning firm.

Keep up to date with Dynamic Business on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Source: Six reasons for more Aussie women to join the tech industry – Dynamic Business

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Melanie Perkins’ $3.2 billion design platform, Canva, is one of the world’s most valuable female-led start-ups. CNBC Make It’s Karen Gilchrist met with the 32-year-old Australian entrepreneur in Sydney to find out how she’s taking on tech giants Microsoft and Adobe. —–

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