Incentivizing High Performance: 

Without Creating a Culture of Fear

3 Tips to Create the Culture You Want

Encouraging high performance doesn’t have to scare employees about losing their jobs, their incentives, or their professional relationships. Many organizations struggle to incentivize performance in a way that doesn’t incite feelings of anxiety, negative stress, or fear. A traditional approach to encouraging high performance typically includes performance based incentives, strict repercussions for not achieving goals, and high expectations. While all of these can be useful in helping employees achieve high performance and are not necessarily bad, they can easily lead to the creation of a negative, fearful workplace culture. 

What does a culture of fear look like? 

How do organizations move forward to encourage high performance 1) without instilling a culture of fear 2) without losing or isolating top talent, and 3) without spending an arm and a leg on incentives?

#1 Conveying a Clear Strategy: 

When it comes as a surprise to employees that there are consequences due to poor performance, poor communication is clearly a major issue. The employees obviously do not understand the strategy for success of the organization. It is critical that employees are aware of and onboard with the direction and goals of the company. It may even be beneficial to include them in the creation of the strategy. When employees are on board with the direction and strategy of the organization, it becomes easier to promote employee engagement and high performance. 

#2 Holding Regular Performance Reviews: 

Listen closely, we are NOT talking about traditional performance reviews. Only conveying performance expectations once a year is NOT beneficial to employee development. Leadership should ensure that employees not only understand what is expected of them, but also where they stand on their path to success. Performance reviews should be held regularly (monthly at least), both formally and informally to help employees maintain a clear picture of what is needed from them. 

#3 Getting Creative with Incentives: 

There are many ways to incentivize employees to perform well without scaring them or increasing any anxious feelings about the organization. The book, Carrots and Sticks Don't Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT by Paul L. Marciano, Ph.D. provides excellent insights to creative incentives that won't cost a fortune. 

Again, encouraging high performance doesn’t have to scare employees about losing their jobs, their incentives, or their professional relationships. Whether you’re building a team from scratch or trying to re-engage employees to achieve high performance, there are many ways that break the traditional mold.

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