The question of performance of reward came up a number of times at HR Tech World. We kicked off with an Influencers roundtable hosted by Andy Campbell HCM Strategy Director, Oracle. The group was divided into two and asked to toss around ideas on key HR issues including recruitment, L&D and Performance & Reward. The subsequent discussions were interesting and although somewhat tangential, some key themes emerged.

Re-defining success

When it came to performance we talked about ideas that suggested we need to start re-thinking how we define and reward success. Currently, we tend to recognise results and consider the top performer as the person who achieves the highest/fastest/greatest regardless of how they actually perform to achieve that. Very often this divo/diva behaviour requires a team of “sweepers” to pick up after the mayhem they create. This approach overlooks those who support that effort via collaboration or sorting out what Peter Hinssen called the SOY (sh$t from yesterday). These employees are very often unrecognised and unrewarded. It was also agreed we need to recognise the right kind of risk-taking, innovation and failure. Not the sort of sh$t floats type of failure, where highly paid people drive one business into the ground and then move onto another, banking their massive payouts on the way, but rather the employees who try to innovate and improve and may not achieve their goals first time round but create a learning environment for the future.

Brilliant Jerks

Arianna Huffington one of the major keynote speakers was more direct. Her core message was ironically to use tech itself to cure us of our tech addictions. Sounds counter intuitive, but it is true. She is now on a mission to save us all… from ourselves. One of the problems she has identified in corporate life is what she calls the “Brilliant Jerks.” They drive a toxic culture of brutal over-work, permanent availability and excessive risk-taking. She offered a compelling business case for work-life integration, advocating that leaders should not be urging employee to work “harder, smarter and longer” into a physical and psychological state that impacts effective decision making. In her view, that only fosters mistakes and burnout. In Uber after the recent scandals, they have now dropped working “longer” from their corporate mission statement. I wonder why they didn’t drop the “harder” too.

Arianna’s message was that our unfathomable acceptance of the mantra of 24/7 availability is driving us literally into the ground. Have you ever noticed, she asked, the difference between a resume and a eulogy? No one ever, she quipped, suggests about a recently departed loved one that he/she surpassed plan year on year by 30%, citing biblical references of a 6 day work week and a 7th day of rest to re-enforce her message. I also noted (and of course loved) the pronoun switch she used.

But her over-riding message was that for the Human Operating System, downtime isn’t a bug – it’s a feature” And although she insists that “NO” is a complete sentence there was still a feeling amongst participants akin to “try telling that to my boss.”