I wrote about 18 months ago about Alfie Kohn's provocative book, Punished by Rewards -- The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plan$, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes. This article in The Business Innovation Insider provides an important quote from Kohn:
My perception is that the closer you get to workplace business perfection, the less important 'rewards' in the most visible sense become. (Of course there is compensation -- I don't know of any successful business that will be around for long if it doesn't fairly compensate its employees!) When things aren't quite right, rewards can act like golden handcuffs -- holding things together, sort of. In the end, of course, the business crumbles under the weight of its negative environment.
Q:. What type of environment is most conducive to building a culture of innovation?
Alfie Kohn: The absence of rewards is necessary, but not sufficient, to create a culture of innovation. What we also need is what I like to call the "3 C's": choice, collaboration, and content. Choice means that employees should be able to participate in making decisions about what they do every day. Collaboration concerns the need to structure effective teams to facilitate both an exchange of ideas and a climate of support. Content refers to what people are asked to do. (As Frederick Herzberg put it many years ago, "If you want people motivated to do a good job, give them a good job to do.") A workplace characterized by these three features is one where the focus is on working *with* employees to solve problems and devise solutions -- as opposed to doing things *to* employees by treating them like pets.
Business people must tread carefully in moving to a 'reward-free' environment. Unless the other aspects are all in place, things will collapse -- and (significantly) if your business diverges from the ideal model to the, sadly, more conventional approach, you may find, if you have built a reward-free model, your now-disgruntled employees will leave you sooner than later.
I never contracted with the commission-only publishers described in my article, and now believe that all sales employees should be offered a fair salary to start. However, I haven't quite made the jump to 100 per cent salary just yet. I will however pull up an article explaining how one very successful business person has done this, and achieved great results.