Should We Use Rewards to Entice Employees to Be Different?

Is HR ready for the changes coming in the workplace? (Photo illustration by

A new book about innovation is structured around a central question, which the author (Michael Schrage) calls the Ask. The central question (and the title of the book): Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become?

An article on by Schrage takes a closer look at this question, noting that it is the ask that differentiates innovators and how they approach their customers.

The point, in a nutshell: Successful innovators don’t just ask customers and clients to do something different; they ask them to become someone different.

Looking differently at employee rewards

To illustrate, the author calls out some contemporary examples:

Facebook asks its users to become more open and sharing with their personal information, even if they might be less extroverted in real life. Amazon turned shoppers into information-rich consumers who could share real-time data and reviews, cross-check prices, and weigh algorithmic recommendations on their paths to online purchase. Who shops now without doing at least some digital comparisons of price and performance?”

The author directs particular attention to Google, noting that Google’s search technology effectively turned its users into both partners and collaborators, enabling the company to harness and act on their collective intelligence to deliver a better search experience. An investment in customer capabilities that ultimately produces benefits for the company and the customers. (And yes, I’ve read In The Plex and am cognizant of the darker flip side of this “equation,” but let’s just set that aside for the moment.)

And so, I couldn’t help but wonder …

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What if we looked at employee rewards in this way? What if, instead of using rewards to drive employees to do things differently, we created plans that enticed them to become someone different – different in a way that would be beneficial to the employees themselves as well as the company?

Where might a mindshift like this take us? If we changed our “ask,” would it impact the programs we design and put in place?

This was originally published on Ann Bares’ Compensation Force blog.

Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. She has over 20 years of experience consulting in compensation and performance management and has worked with a variety of organizations in auditing, designing and implementing executive compensation plans, base salary structures, variable and incentive compensation programs, sales compensation programs, and performance management systems.

Her clients have included public and privately held businesses, both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, early stage entrepreneurial organizations and larger established companies. Ann also teaches at the University of Minnesota and Concordia University.

Contact her at


1 Comment on “Should We Use Rewards to Entice Employees to Be Different?

  1. This is an interesting concept that should be handled with care.   I like your important caveat that the ask to be different should be in a way that is beneficial to the employees themselves as well as the company.  

    I think poorly designed or executed rewards can have a paradoxical effect making employees feel manipulated into ‘doing’ things the company wants them to do, and therefore more resistant to taking those actions.  

    Now what we are talking about here is going even deeper to the very ‘identity’ of individuals. People protect this aspect of themselves very rigorously and quite rightly so.  Organisations like Facebook as an example are skilled in doing this but also do face some strong kick back at times.  Although clearly they are making significant changes in how society interacts, shares etc   

    Ultimately for organisations to change, people have to change.Those of us privileged to influence how these changes occur must ensure that we do so with integrity and with respect for the individual in mind. Your post indicates that you get all this but there is a danger that not everyone would and in those circumstances it could have very negative impacts.  

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