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Case Study (Incentives): Harassment Prevention

Submitted by  on April 16th, 2014

Shocked female business woman on mobile phoneMy mantra for the last few years has been about making our employee training more effective. And we can do that by better integrating the training with the employees’ workplace. On this blog, I’ve been illustrating what I mean with some case studies. One set of case studies used the example of an accounting firm rolling out a harassment prevention training program. I shared this example to illustrate the importance of clarifying employee roles and performance expectations and using new policies and procedures in the training.

In this blog post, I want to illustrate another important factor for ensuring that each training program has maximum traction. This factor is about ensuring that the organization’s incentives scheme is designed to encourage the right behaviors. Training programs are only successful to the extent that they change employee behaviors to the new way of working.

I’ve written about how organization’s can use the two types of employee motivation – internal motivation and external motivation – to encourage training participants to apply their new skills on the job. The case study below illustrates how external incentives in particular can be applied in practice.

Incentives is one of eight factors in Leslie Allan’s PRACTICE Approach™ for improving the impact of training. Find out more and get Leslie’s high impact training guide.

This scenario involves an accounting firm that had failed to avoid an expensive lawsuit following the rollout of harassment prevention training to all its employees. The training program was prompted by the questionable actions of one of the firm’s middle-level managers. The Human Resources Manager advised the partners of the firm that the cost of litigation would be high if they were taken to court over mistreatment of an employee. Even though all the parties to the harassment claim attended the training, the harassing activities did not cease.

An investigation into the causes of the failure revealed a number of shortcomings in the company’s management and performance systems. One of these shortcomings was the lack of incentives for managers to lead by example. The partners to the firm came to appreciate that the workplace driver for reducing the incidence of harassing behavior is the behavior of their managers.

In this case, the harassing manager sensed that the owners were simply paying lip service to the effort to eliminate employee harassment. As part of the move to revamp weak systems, the owners introduced two new company targets. They then modified the existing manager bonus scheme to encourage the reaching of these new targets. Under the new incentives scheme, each manager will be paid an annual bonus according to a mix of measures decided at the time of the manager’s last annual performance appraisal. Each measure is weighted according to its perceived significance in the overall mix.

The first of these new targets set by the owners was zero employee complaints (including harassment) for each department. The management team agreed a formula with the partners that paid a larger bonus to each manager the nearer the number of complaints about their department reached zero. Because of the heavy financial costs of litigation, the owners assigned a weight of 20% to this measure. They also set a trigger point at 5% per annum. This meant that if the number of complaints about a department for that year was 5% or more of the total number of employees within that department (rounded up), the score for that measure would be set to zero.

For the second measure, the owners set up a measurement system to track the total annual employee litigation expenses. They set aside a pool of money at the beginning of each financial year for employee initiated legal expenses. The second incentive the owners introduced was this: 10% of the amount added to the pool in any one year will be distributed pro rata to managers in the following year if no litigation expenses were incurred for that year.

Peer pressure ensured that this incentive worked especially well. Reports filtered back to the owners that managers were overheard cajoling each other to not let the team down. The owners saved the most significant informal motivator for the end of the financial year management review meeting. Here, the senior partners personally thanked the manager with the lowest record of employee complaints for the year.

This case study demonstrates a dual approach to providing incentives. Here, the owners used a combination of financial incentives with personal accolades. In future blog posts, I will share further case studies showing how incentives can promote behavior change following training. Stay tuned!

High Impact Training Guide

Do you need to get more traction from your training programs? Are some of your training participants not using their skills back on the job? Then check out Leslie Allan’s high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance. Learn proven strategies and techniques for finding performance roadblocks, aligning training to real needs, developing training partnerships, engaging learners and maximizing learning transfer. Find out more about From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance and download the free introductory chapter today.

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