Are your employees gaming the system?
Is your business just going through the motions or is it actually delivering – and how do you know?
When things appear to be running smoothly, it is easy to become complacent and assume everything is operating as it should, but is it? The bigger the organisation the easier it is for problems to become hidden from view.
Business organisations exist in order to make money for their owners, but also to benefit their employees and their customers. It is the employees that enable the business to operate, and it is the customers who provide the income on which the business survives.
As organisations grow, they become more complex and difficult to manage. Bureaucracy tends to increase, and “the system” starts to operate for the benefit of the business rather than that of the customer who provides the income. When employees at any level are left to their oven devices and without effective management, there is a natural tendency to diverge into areas of interest and convenience, and away from the planned requirements of the business, with the opportunity for staff to “game the system.”
Commercial managers are responsible for producing a flow of profitable income for the long-term benefit of the business. Establishing the level of business efficiency requires both management ratios and performance measurements. Performance is measured by results past and present presented as quantitative data, but this does not tell the whole story of how well an organisation operates. Quantitative data can indicate where performance meets, falls short of, or exceeds expectations, but while such data might hint at an underlying cause, it cannot illuminate causes which may be qualitative in nature or that originate in employee organisation and management. For example:
- How does the method of working and organisation meet the needs of employees and employers? Is the work process efficient and effective?
- Does the methodology and levels of responsibility motivate or demotivate employees?
- Do you know what employees actually do or how they contribute to the commercial objectives?
“Gaming the system” works contrary to the business interests of a firm, because it wastes time and investment. The marketing department can be a place where some people “ game the system” to build successful careers by developing their own image, but potentially wasting time and money by avoiding the scrutiny and the quantified measurement of their real contribution, for example:
- “Visionary ideas” that do not relate to the purpose of profitable revenue.
- Ostensibly working from home when doing other things.
- Moonlighting on company time and resources, to name but a few.
If employees are “Gaming the system,” how is the commercial manager to know?
Recognising how "gaming the system" can manifest itself in marketing organisations is important, if commercial managers are to counter its effects effectively. To do this, commercial managers need to:
- Accept that getting and retaining business costs money and therefore all investments, costs and assets must be used efficiently and effectively.
- Ensure that all activities involved have quantifiable performance measurements based on results.
- Ensure that marketing staff have clear job descriptions with defined areas of interest and responsibilities.
- Activities should be demonstrably contributing to satisfying customers and producing income.
It is very easy for businesses to spend money to develop a brand, market share and customer relations, but it is much harder to demonstrate directly how such investment contributes to producing profitable income. “System gamers” may have no difficulty in demonstrating what and where they have spent money, but justifying what was spent, in the amount of profitable income produced may be a lot harder.
Since the Covid pandemic, there has been a reported increase in employees willing only to do the minimum necessary requirements of their job, seemingly with low motivation and a general lack of enthusiasm. Staff may need to be reminded that the world does not owe us a living and that as employees they directly contribute to and benefit from the company’s success. If not fired with enthusiasm for their job, they should be fired with redundancy.
Employees should be enthused about what they do and how they contribute to the business. If they feel ignored and not valued they can become disaffected and less productive. Experienced staff are the most important asset that a commercial manager has, as they have the essential knowledge and understanding of the customers on which the business and its income depend. Commercial managers need to encourage and develop a positive and enthusiastic attitude with employed staff and should:
- Regularly engage with employees to establish and understand problems.
- Involve staff with development and decision making
- Avoid micro-management.
- Delegate responsibility wherever possible.
- Keep supervision at arm’s length as far as possible.
- Ensure staff have sufficient training and resources.
- Reward generously.
- Give objectives and direction, but let staff find their own solutions.
- Provide help only where necessary.
- Encourage new ideas to develop profitability and customer satisfaction.
- Allow staff to get on with the job without interference.
Above all, commercial managers need to develop a team spirit that involves everyone and encourages individual involvement in producing profit by satisfying customers. That way "gaming the system", moonlighting and negative attitudes will be discouraged; enabling both the company and the staff members to benefit in income and prosperity.