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Conflict in the workplace

Current reward policy is increasingly complex, too technical, focused on too few people and has serious unintended consequences, says Dr Jonathan Trevor

An acknowledged authority on HR management is calling for a new approach to reward policy to liberate value across organisations.

From his on-going research, Dr Jonathan Trevor, Lecturer in Human Resources & Organisations, Cambridge Judge Business School says it is apparent that organisations are really struggling with the issue of performance and relative reward.

The current policy is increasingly complex, impossibly technical, focused on too few people and has serious unintended consequences.

He believes the fundamental issue is that many organisations, even the most prestigious, best resourced and sophisticated, in terms of managerial and technical capability, are struggling to make a meaningful link between strategy and reward in support of the productive behaviours required to create value.

Dr Trevor says reward policy has become more complex because the nature of work itself has become complex.

“In a sense, that had a knock-on effect on reward and how we seek to generate alignment, motivation, commitment and indeed competence around the work required of employees.”

He feels that reward has failed to keep pace with the complexities of the changing environment and there is ever increasing disparity between average executive pay and average employee pay.

“We see these unintended consequences which are often discreet unless you are specifically looking for them. We see conflict as abundant in the employment relationship, the workforce, as it ever was, except it now takes different forms to, for example, the 1984 miners’ strike.

“Why is this? Perhaps what we’re trying to do is cope in this more challenging environment by simply trying to do the same better, and squeeze out as much performance as possible. We’re looking at reward or pay as a key lever to get this extra mile from our workforce, when actually we’re using the wrong tool to incentivise normal behaviours.”

Dr Trevor, Director of the Centre for International Human Resource Management at Cambridge Judge Business School, suggests that the approach should be, “not about doing the same better but doing something different and meeting that challenge.”