smart spending

Workplace needs new employee incentives

"If you have a system, particularly a financial system and a Wall Street system, that have these narrow, short-term goals with gigantic payoffs, you're going to have some people who will take the low road there. What surprises me is that everybody doesn't take the low road," he says.

"We have to remember that that kind of motivation system almost brought down the entire economy. The Federal Reserve had to take unprecedented steps to save us from our excesses."

Wall Street bonuses? So last century.

Companies catch on

Pink says what America needs is a workplace makeover that replaces the fear and uncertainty of carrot-and-stick with the freedom and (dare I say it?) playfulness that can unleash the full creative potential of its workers.

Some forward-thinking companies have already caught on. Google in Mountain View, Calif., instituted "20 percent time," in which engineers devote one day a week to tinkering outside the box. Australian-based software company Atlassian holds "FedEx Days" in which programmers invent new products or processes in a 24-hour frenzy and deliver it overnight -- hence the name.

A few companies have even gone ROWE, short for "results-only work environment," which does away with work schedules entirely. Workers at Best Buy's corporate office in Richfield, Minn., don't have schedules and can show up when they want, as long as they get their work done.

To be sure, Pink's proposition chafes under the starchy white collar of corporate America. On the positive side, there has never been a better time to abandon carrots.

"Yeah, the carrot cupboards are fairly bare," he says. "It's not like managers have this whole arsenal of carrots to dole out."

Those companies that catch this wave may finally reap the full creativity of their workforce.

"It overturns a lot of orthodoxies that all of us have known in our guts weren't quite right, that human beings have more drives besides simply chasing after the carrot and avoiding the stick," says Pink. "Treating people more like human beings and less like horses is not only nice, it's more effective."

If you have a comment or suggestion about this column, write to Bank Shots.

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