Thursday, 14 January 2010

Motivation & pay

I can't tell if it's just me looking for something I want to see or whether there is a bit of interest developing in non-financial motivation. I've been thinking since the financial crisis hit home that an opportunity exists to have another look at whether big piles of cash (or shares) actually work as incentives. It's why I think some of the Left commentary about bankers' bonuses misses the point.

The amounts paid matter to some extent, but surely more so is whether they actually drove the 'wrong' behaviour or not. Your answer to this second point matters quite a bit and unfortunately much of the focus on restructuring bonuses and other incentives (which I agree is necessary, but for other reasons) is built on the implicit assumption that this form of incentivisation does work, for good or ill. So those on the Left arguing for bonus reform need to be aware of this.

Personally I'm sceptical bonuses drive behaviour, as I've said many times before, and it's notable that the FSA, or at least Adair Turner wasn't that convinced either. And this is quite apart from the question about whether it is possible to effectively tie the reward to the right targets in the first place. If we start from this point we could have a much more interesting discussion about bonuses and other incentives.

Anyway, as I say I think I'm picking up a bit of nascent interest in broader questions about motivation. A couple of people in the governance world do seem to be sniffing around this stuff. The Daniel Pink book I referred to recently could be a useful way to popularise this debate. But it would be really good to get some decent research done in the investor world.... here's hoping.

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