Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Incentives: "Let Their Paychecks Be Their Incentive!"

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Incentives: "Let Their Paychecks Be Their Incentive!"

Article excerpt

I wish I had heard this phrase less often throughout my career. This is a favorite phrase among plant managers who have lost all patience for traditional incentive programs. Nevertheless, the last time I heard this phrase turned out to be a positive and memorable experience.

Several years ago, I was tasked with the assessment and refinement of a company's national risk and safety strategy. Following initial assessments of the company's production and distribution facilities, a plan was developed to deploy program responsibilities across a distributed network of resources. In fact, the company had offered me the job of risk and safety director--a position I declined in favor of an outsourced facilitator's role.

As part of our strategy, we assigned one employee to each risk control requirement at each operating location. We did this to match skill sets to program requirements and avoid cursing any individual with the label "safety coordinator." The result was a Risk and Safety Accountability Matrix consisting of inter-facility teams ranging from clerical support to line operators, supervisors, managers and staff. The objective was to create a network of internal resources that would survive organizational turnover and enable the cross-pollination of best practices between operating locations. Our next step was to meet with each plant manager and implementation team to establish priorities.

Our prioritization meetings started with a thorough explanation of each required program and the benefits of implementation. At the beginning of one of these meetings, the plant manager made an authoritative (angry) proclamation. He said, "I know which program will be last--incentives! Let their paychecks be their incentive!"

I understood the plant manager's resistance. We both had witnessed expensive incentive programs having a disruptive impact on culture and a negative impact on loss costs.

Our common experience suggested that incentive programs tend to focus on downstream indicators. These programs dangle carrots (sometimes new cars) in front of a workforce and reward a single person for spelling out B.I.N.G.O. or having their name drawn from a hat, even though the vast majority of employees satisfy the established criteria. These programs reward employees with incurred but not reported (IBNR) injuries and/or withhold rewards from employees based on the performance of others (peer pressure). …

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