Our August Interview of the Month was based on a study published recently by CEB, which suggested that in order for today’s organizations to succeed, employees must become “enterprise contributors” who are invested in collaboratively working towards organizational success as a cohesive unit. While 75% of the employees surveyed in the CEB study expressed willingness to become enterprise contributors, they also indicated that their organizations made it difficult to contribute. These difficulties were demonstrated in collaborative, competitive, empowerment, and motivational paradoxes. The 9Lenses interview of the month dove deep to examine how these paradoxes manifest themselves in organizations. The following is a summary of our findings from that assessment.
Gap Analysis Report
The four paradoxes that impede employee contribution in organizations:
- The Competition Paradox:The organization expects greater cooperation among employees, but performance incentives such as raises and promotions also foster competition.
- The Empowerment Paradox:Employees need autonomy, but they also require direction
in prioritizing their activities.
- The Collaboration Paradox:While collaboration tools and coworker input can improve quality, they can also slow execution.
- The Motivation Paradox:Financial rewards motivate individual performance, but they can also reduce intrinsic motivation for enterprise contribution.
Greatest Impact on Enterprise Contribution
A majority of the interview participants indicated that the collaboration paradox had the greatest impact on their enterprise. This was the lowest scoring topic, and it also had the highest alignment, signifying that many participants were in agreement around the score.
Participants indicated that their organizations placed substantial emphasis on collaboration amongst employees, but this emphasis seemed to have some degree of a negative impact on the speed of execution. A few participants thought that collaboration was necessary given their client facing work, while others thought that their organizations relied too heavily on collaboration to gather feedback on work.
Suggestions to improve the efficiency of collaboration included:
- Ensuring that meetings only included people who were empowered to make decisions regarding the subject discussed.
- Clearly defining responsibilities and who was accountable for efforts where collaboration was necessary.
- Properly managing collaboration tools to facilitate more efficiency.
Highest Scoring Topic
While participants identified a large gap between cooperative emphasis and operational incentives that promoted competition (35% gap), the competition paradox was the highest scoring topic in the entire dataset, meaning that it is the least prevalent.
This anomaly can be explained largely by the reasoning participants gave for their answers. Although the population seemed to think there was potential for incentives to create competition among employees, most participants thought that competition occurred because their organizations had not properly communicated or adequately trained employees on how they were expected to collaborate with each other. Interestingly, some participants noted that their executive leadership consistently discussed rewarding performance but never actually adopted performance incentive plans as a result of those discussions.
Participants seemed comparatively less concerned about lack of empowerment within their respective organizations because they identified a relatively small gap between the ability to act autonomously compared to seeking direction for prioritizing decisions (11% gap).
Many participants thought autonomy was more dependent on individual manager preferences and team dynamics than on a broader organizational culture. Issues that were mentioned included the level of activity within the firm, managers not being receptive to cooperative efforts, and limited project management skills.
Participants also recognized that prioritization was often determined by individual professional abilities. With so many activities going on, some thought it was difficult to determine what activities were priorities. One participant thought that more autonomy could actually improve prioritization because if the organization was able to provide employees with the change to be their own process leaders, “people will …be able to prioritize for the good of the business.” Consequently, 25% of participants thought they could help their organizations improve in this area.
Participants voted the motivation paradox the top challenge of the four paradoxes, but there were significant differences of opinion as to why individuals were not properly motivated to contribute to the long-term success of their organizations.
Participants seemed to have divergent opinions of the extent to which performance rewards limited motivation to contribute to the organization. While some thought that employees within their organizations were only motivated to improve themselves, others felt that there were employees who were quite willing to make significant contributions to the organization. Problems identified with properly motivating broader commitment to organizational success included:
- Lack of resources to provide the right incentives
- Difficulty in determining how to structure equitable incentives for team performance
- Employee attitudes negatively influencing motivation.