Protecting performance: When financial incentivisation isn’t possible

4 November 2022

As we head deeper into what’s set to be a prolonged period of economic uncertainty, we’re seeing some employers rightly put in measures to support their employees. Where financial support isn’t possible, measures such as flexible working and additional wellbeing support are being implemented.  

But this squeeze is hitting organisations, as well as individuals. Hard.

So, when your business is unable to facilitate the bonuses or pay rises leaders want for their teams, they are faced with a challenge: finding the balance between supporting employees whilst still driving performance during this turbulent backdrop.

When talking about performance, or productivity, we’re talking about the output from a task, action, or service. But to consider how we increase output, we need to consider the inputs that it’s dependent on. To optimise these inputs, leaders need to focus on limiting interference their team may be experiencing which is particularly poignant during such times of change and uncertainty,

Let’s be clear: there is no silver bullet.

However, there are a number of ways that, as a leader, you can alleviate pressure and make marginal gains to help maximise performance.

In stressful, high-pressured times, it’s easy to forget the basics. And over the coming months and years, there will be a lot of noise; some will be within your control, others won’t be. Optimising performance is about focusing on the things you can and not wasting time or energy on that you can’t. We can all be guilty of stressing over matters that are completely out of our control.

And though our modern-day challenges are not to be dismissed, we our built with the same survival instincts and coping mechanisms as our ancestors. Much like them, the best teams in both sport and business have the ability to meet adversity with hunger, passion and excitement. They do this through having clearly defined roles and the ability to reframe a potentially negative situation into a positive opportunity.

So, here are some suggestions to help maximise performance:

Address the individual need  
Addressing the individual need may sound obvious, but we need to meet people where they are. In practice, it can be challenging to make time and authentically demonstrate an understanding of another person’s needs.

Create an open environment for conversation for an individual to share concerns and feelings they may be experiencing. Simply, stating ‘my door is always open’ may not be enough to truly understand the needs of the individual or team. Schedule in time where they can bring to the forefront their concerns both in and outside the working environment and where support can be offered, offer it.

Ensure you’re familiar with all the strings you can pull to offer support – does your company have an Employee Assistance Programme? What is your organisation’s position on the cost-of-living crisis? How are individuals guided to access additional support outside of the workplace?

Build trust  
Akin to this, you must establish trust with your team. It’s the foundation on which everything else is built and key to keeping morale and motivation high.

Ensure you have an open, honest, and frequent dialogue about the organisation’s position and what can and can’t be done in the current climate.

Build resilience
Storytelling is a great way to build this within a team. Considered sharing experiences of how your organisation has overcome challenges previously to demonstrate that the challenges ahead are not too big to overcome.

This needs to be authentic and not embellished which can risk undermining the team’s confidence. What makes a great storyteller, is their ability to hook an audience into their message and land with a positive or emotive response.

Leverage USPs  
Identify what specific attributes of the team make it unique and draw on their ability to help ‘weather the storm’ – both at a team and an individual level.

Equally, what attributes of the organisation can be leveraged to build belief and transition into a positive opportunity?

Set short-term goals 
In an overwhelming environment where it might not be possible to see the light and the end of the tunnel, setting short and mid-term goals can be a great way to keep a team on track. Focussing on weekly, or even daily, objectives can help build a sense of control; ultimately providing the opportunity to build confidence and the ability to step into positive momentum.

Take clear, decisive action
Clear and decisive action (rather than muted autopilot) may be the differentiator between those who ‘protect’ performance, and those who don’t. The decisive action may not feel perfect to begin with but can be optimised along the way.

A clear path with intent can build a collected purpose and belief in your team, ensuring your organisation maintains engagement and builds a competitive advantage for retaining top talent.


A final thought 

Whilst hard times are ahead, adversity is often the catalyst for great things.

Leaders looking to protect performance over the coming months will need to be clear about the challenges their team will face and how they intend to tackle them.  This starts with how leaders choose to display their own attitudes and approach to overcoming adversity.

With the right mindset, conquering challenges provides the opportunity to build stronger relationships, a deeper level of understanding and to evolve to be better prepared for future challenges.

If you’d like to find out how we can help you maximise performance, please get in touch.




Share this: