We often say you get what you pay for. From this it follows that if you want employees to show up on time and to work harder you have to pay for it.  Though offering monetary awards for achieving goals and targets makes intuitive sense for motivating your team, the research does not bear this out.  Generally, paying for performance yields very few dividends in terms of overall performance improvements.

Paying for performance misses out on the fact that we are social beings. What makes us happiest, even happier than money, is social connection.  Work is where we spend most of our time and if we don’t have social connections at work, our workplace can become a very disconnected and lonely place to be. Ignoring social connections in the workplace has been shown to actually hurt productivity.

Economists are beginning to realize that human capital (the amount of intelligence, experience and education each person has) does not tell the whole story: social capital (the social connections and social networks within an organization) is a significant factor for achieving productivity gains. Studies have shown that among companies with equal human capital, social capital is what accounts for differences in productivity.  “The assumption that productivity is about smart people working hard on their own has been masking the fact that individual intelligence may only be optimized when it is enhanced through social connections to others in the group.[1]

So how do you build social capital? “The research shows that the best way to drive performance is to improve the quality of conversations.[2]” Building conversational intelligence in an organization, workplace or team pays social capital dividends. Conversational intelligence creates trust and changes the team focus from individual targets and pay incentives, toward business/organization values and goals.  Conversational intelligence can also create teams that are emotionally agile, flexible and resilient.  These are the characteristics of engaged, productive and efficient workplace teams.

*** Ron Pizzo, in addition to practicing labour and employment law, is a trained mediator and coach. He works with leaders and stuck teams to get them working again.  He uses evidence based tools to restore trust and improve organizations’ conversational intelligence.

[1] Matthew Lieberman, Social Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect (2013)

[2] David Rock, Neuroleadership Institute (neuroleadership.com)