Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Should Woodstock pay employees extra?

Woodstock management may be pondering a plan to reward employees for ideas.

Sometimes an incentive program can benefit all. Would it work in Woodstock?

Certain "ideas" should be just common sense on the job; e.g., when you remove a paperclip, you put it in your desk drawer, not in the waste basket? Will employees want to be rewarded for saving paperclips or rescuing them from the waste baskets all over town?

Where do you draw the line?

I'm reminded of the story about a U.S. Government worker who recommended that two seldom-used forms be combined. They were, and the employee got a $500 bonus for that idea.

A year later, the same employee recommended that the combined form, which was never used, be made obsolete, and so the Government paid him $500 for that idea.

When I was first in business in the Chicago Loop, a colleague had a sign on the wall in his office, which read, "We have a time-proven incentive program here. Those who work, get to keep their jobs."

How about that one, Woodstock?

City Councilman RB Thompson praised City Manager Tim Clifton in this morning's Northwest Herald with, "... Clifton has created an environment in which our employees are highly motivated already."

"Highly motivated" means different things to different people. Consider the seller who is about to lose his house in foreclosure; he is "highly motivated". Consider the deputy at the Sheriff's Department who wants to complain about racial profiling; he is "highly motivated" now to keep his mouth shut.

Maybe RB's "Northwest Herald" example was taken out of context, when he is reported to have said that a reporter who withholds an idea (for the purpose of monetary gain) would not be doing his job as reporter. That's far too general. If that reporter is researching a story on paid newspaper time and learns pertinent information for the story, he shouldn't withhold that. But, if he comes across other information and can use that for his gain, why not?

An incentive plan will need to be crystal clear about whether the line is. But the City should be careful that it doesn't spend years of future savings on legal fees now to define the Incentive Plan.

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