Time Is The New Currency
I have a friend who is a professional comedian. Being an HR soul through and through, I asked him what the remuneration and benefits were like. He said he did it for the love. He then added that once a client actually offered to pay him with love. They finally agreed on a dollar figure and a couple of free beers.
It is all too easy to assume people are little economic robots making purely rational decisions like we were all encouraged to believe at school. There’s the old adage about the shipwreck where an engineer, a physicist and an economist were marooned on a desert island with only a crate of tinned food to sustain them. The engineer said, “I’ll build a raft.” The physicist said, “I’ll construct a fire.” The economist said, “Assume a can opener…”
It might make theoretical understanding of economic concepts easier if we limit things to two variables, assume people are rational and spout, “Ceteris Paribus” but we all know people aren’t always rational. This is even true of their choices and reactions to remuneration and benefits. Sepia-toned men with clipboards and stopwatches in lab coats in the 1950s no doubt made many graphs showing some kind of cause and effect between money paid and productivity. Perhaps that was true (or at least truer) back in the day?
Further back in a more distant pre-industrial day, issues of remuneration and benefits were more clear-cut. A subsistence existence will do that for you. You produced or you perished. You ate, wore or lived in what you yourself produced and the benefits you received were ‘not dying.’ Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it and with the economy the way it is, you may be trying it sooner than you think! Relax – I’m talking about growing your own vegetables not anarchic tribal feudalism, although that would probably make a great reality TV show. Our nomadic and early farming societies made or traded for what they needed. As productivity expanded they could elevate themselves to what they wanted as well, not just what they needed. Those economists again would refer to ‘Need Hierarchies.’ Traditionally this would have the basics at the bottom of a visual pyramid like food and shelter. Nowadays, I suppose that includes ultra-fast broadband and high-def TV?
I suppose the point I’m making is that once to encourage productivity in another you could offer an extra couple of chickens. We got to a point where that offer could be made in a medium of exchange we call money. I am proposing that the new (well, new to most of us) economic recessionary climate calls for a mixed approach. What is the new money? What can be dangled in front of those of us left with jobs to encourage and inspire us to bust our humps to be more productive? Not that we’re not already busting our humps but it’s generally true that we keep a little spare hump-busting capacity just in case. It’s only human.
I’m a firm believer in time as a new currency. It has value and limited supply. The Government can’t print any more time like they can money. The average life span of a kiwi woman is 81 and a kiwi man is 78. We can argue about why that is later but whatever your number, that’s all there is. If you knew what that number was for you, how differently would you live your life?
Reward talent with time. Maybe they ‘spend’ that time with their kids and society benefits? Maybe they ‘invest’ that time in a moonlighting sideline making macramé sandals that turns into an export boom that revitalises the economy but in an environmentally friendly way? What other innovative remuneration avenues can we develop?
The iconic New Zealand game show was ‘It’s In the Bag.’ If you’re over 30, you must remember that show. (If you’re under 30, this is what a recession feels like. How’s that carefree Gen Y attitude of yours now punk?) In the ultimate round of the show, the host would entice the ‘winner’ to choose between a known amount of prize money and a bag in which resided a mystery prize. There were a number of bags. Some contained a voucher for an awesome appliance of much greater value than the money. Some contained booby prizes. The host would cajole the ‘winner’ with small incremental increases in the offer whilst shouting to the audience, “What should they do New Zealand – the money or the bag?” How cool would this be come remuneration review time at your organisation? Sure some people lose but if Barry gets that state-of-the-art barbeque then everyone wins. And if you get the booby prize of a packet of vegetable seeds, then you’re all set for the post-apocalyptic anarchic tribal feudalism the media is hyping up.
 All other things remaining equal
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