Who are the walking dead?

Many readers have likely heard of, and perhaps are fans of, the post-apocalyptic zombie world on AMC’s The Walking Dead. However, did you know the walking dead are already here? In fact they are in your workforce right now! “But wait,” you say, “there are no flesh-eating corpses walking around in my office!” And on that front you’d be right…I hope! However, what is likely present in your office are profit eating zombies, employees who are simply going through the motions, not engaged, not thinking, and not contributing to the bottom line.

In the zombie apocalypse we fight back by killing the brains of each zombie. This is not an approach I recommend for your office! On that note, here is what you CAN do to fight the profit eaters stalking your hallways: create Line of Sight in the zombies to turn them back into productive employees!

What is Line of Sight?

LoS is simply the employee’s perception of the degree to which his or her contributions influence the performance measures being evaluated. It can be expressed as:

  • Short: small number of participants, well-understood measures, great ability to affect the measure, short reporting period; or
  • Long: greater number of participants, measures may be difficult to understand, long reporting periods

Beware, The shorter the line of sight and the lower the organization level, the more faith the EMPLOYEE has in the validity of the measurements. The longer the line of sight and the higher the organization level, the more faith MANAGEMENT has in the accuracy and legitimacy of the measurement.

The 4 Step Process to creating Line of Sight

  1. Develop your core message.
  • Employees must first have an understanding of the business strategy and the reasons behind it
  • Give employees a voice in developing the message and ask for their input regarding barriers to achieving the strategy
  • Be careful of Company-wide rollouts – they do not seem to make a difference in employees’ understanding of aligned actions
  1. Define Leadership’s Role.
  • Effective leadership and management communication is a key driver in employee engagement
  • Leaders must be held responsible for setting the vision and bringing it to life for the employees. Their actions must also demonstrate the behaviors required to achieving the strategy
  1. Use an Interactive Approach
  • For employees to truly commit, they must be able to raise suggestions, as well as concerns, and know they will be heard
  • Employees will look for processes that support and a reward system that reinforces the importance of the business strategy
  1. Measure Success
  • It is critical to establish clear outcomes and measures for success
  • Managers must be held accountable for their role in creating line of sight
  • Also important is finding a few critical metrics and measuring them over time – NO “flavor of the month!”

So, your zombies now “see the light” and are headed toward it. The battle is won, right? Not so fast! They still have to be motivated to work towards the organization’s goals. One way to re-humanize them and make them productive contributors to the bottom line is to use variable pay. Variable Pay can accomplish this by:

  • Creating focus and identifying what is important
  • Driving alignment and emphasizing the balance between organizational and individual success
  • Facilitating change through pay/reward
  • Providing positive reinforcement

Types of Variable Pay

  1. Profit Sharing
  • These generally foster employee identification with organizational success and create a common focus
  • A predetermined formula for allocating the share is used
  • Common measures include: revenue, net income, earnings per share, etc.

Use this when you want to promote a common understanding among all employees AND the company is showing a profit.

  1. Performance Sharing Plans
  • These generally drive actions that impact department-level measures
  • Standards of performance must be established and incentive awards are contingent upon those standards
  • They should only last for a specified period and must be self-funded

Use this to promote a more balanced approach to organizational improvement WHILE ALSO fostering the employee’s identification with organizational success.

  1. Individual Plans
  • The individual employee’s performance is the sole basis for the payout
  • Can be used to focus the employee on non-financial measures
  • Reward must be linked directly to the individual’s performance

Use this when you want to reinforce a performance culture AND promote and competitive environment.

The Dark Side

Alas, no good deed goes unpunished. There is a dark side to Line of Sight that must be recognized during the program design: Without the proper discipline, support, and insights, LOS can create results that do not contribute to sustained value creation.

First scenario:

  1. Company begins to focus too much on individual performance
  2. This leads to employees not being committed to overall company success
  3. IE: mortgage lender blindly writes loans without a valuable focus on good judgment

Second scenario:

  1. Too much emphasis placed on elements with “individual controls”
  2. Employees may de-emphasize other performance areas and focus too narrowly
  3. IE: customer service rep. maximizes call volume to the detriment of service quality

Third scenario:

  1. Organization only measures “pieces” of performance
  2. Blindly pursuing only certain elements can lead to achieving results that are not sustainable
  3. IE: Salesperson focuses only on initial sales and acquires clients that prove costly to the firm

The Bottom Line

Whatever strategy or combination of strategies you choose, overlay this question prior to implementation: “How will this decision impact my ability to attract, motivate, or retain key talent?”

So you see, there really is a cure available to help us avoid the zombie apocalypse! As business leaders, we simply need to focus on tried and true methods of motivating our people toward common goals. Communication will be the key that links it all together.

Want an experienced zombie hunter on your team? Call Ed Krow at Turbo Execs for a free assessment on your ability to fight the profit eating zombies.

Ed Krow of TurboExecs helps businesses avoid legal issues while offering development opportunities and competitive packages that incentivize performance in alignment with their goals. Ed’s clients refer to him as their “Safety Net,” because he keeps them from falling into HR traps and eliminates HR headaches.