Why you Should Make Discretionary Effort Mandatory

“Discretionary effort is like loose change in a person’s pocket. It is management’s job to get them to spend it all every day. Discretionary effort is defined as that level of effort people could give if they wanted to, but which is beyond what is required.”
Aubrey C. Daniels

$2 Coin


Discretionary effort is the key buzzword around employee engagement, it describes the extra time, energy and effort that an employee has (but doesn’t necessarily give) to their employer.

There is a set amount of effort required from the employee to perform their work to an acceptable standard; also known as “coasting”. The problem is, “coasting” does not result in business excellence, innovation or progress – it is something that we should work hard to eliminate.

An employee who is “coasting” is estimated to be working to around 70% capacity of what is possible in terms of effort.

Industry research suggests that almost three-quarters of employees are not giving more than what is absolutely necessary in their work. This stop-gap, between potential and actual effort may not seem like a priority to address, until we realise that this stop gap is directly proportional to an organisation’s bottom line. So, any increase on this 70% capacity, even as little as 5%, means an increase in operating margin and therefore bottom line.

So, how do you go about drawing this discretionary effort out from employees?
With effective reward and recognition techniques, which add value, meaning and purpose to work.

Discretionary effort will only arise as a result of an employee wanting to do something, because they can clearly visualise the importance of their contribution in the bigger picture of an organisation. Recognising employees in a targeted and personalised way can help to create this bigger picture and rewards should be based on progress, not achievement.

Mark is the General Manager of Power2Motivate APAC, delivering world class employee recognition and B2B loyalty programs to a wide range of clients.

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