Hard Work Should Not Always Be Rewarded.

Why Results, Not Effort, Are The New Focus at Work.

Overworked. Getty Images

Imagine, for a second, the following two scenarios.

Situation One: You wake up one morning to find water spraying everywhere in your basement or kitchen. You have a leak. So, you call a plumber, who comes right over and assess the situation. This plumber is relatively inexperienced. They make a thorough inspection of the house, grabs a toolkit, and starts work. After 2 hours of grunting, running around, testing, retesting, soldering, sawing, and all sorts of other effort, the leak has been stopped.

They charge you $200 for the service. And, you’re so thankful, you tip them $50 for all the hard work.

Situation Two. You wake up one morning to find water spraying everywhere in your basement or kitchen. You have a leak. So, you call a plumber, who comes right over and assess the situation. This plumber is an expert. He or she knows immediately what the problem is, and gets right to work. The leak is repaired in 15 minutes. They charge you $200 for the service. And, you think “$200 for 15 minutes work? What a rip off!” They get no tip.

In both situations, the end result is the same. However, in situation one, your leak takes 2 hours to repair, and that’s two hours of your time gone. In situation two, the problem is fixed in just 15 minutes. And yet, although the second service is actually the better then first, it leaves you feeling upset. Why?

Why Should Hard Work Beat Results?

It’s simple.

Our society is more focused on rewarding hard work than excellence. We all feel like we got our money’s worth in the first situation. In the second, we feel like the plumber is just taking us for a ride. But in actually, this plumber is way better at his or her job, and we are in fact paying for experience and results, not time.

The same should be applied to advertising, design, marketing, and all other aspects of the industry. Think about it this way.

In an agency setting, you are presented with two copywriters. One is a junior, the other, a veteran with 20+ years of experience.

The junior copywriter takes 3 full days to produce concepts. Some are exceptional, some are good, and some just don’t hit the mark at all.

The veteran spends 8 hours and produces the same amount of work. However, these concepts range from exception, to good. The veteran never presents unworkable ideas, because he or she knows better.

Should the client pay less for the 8 hours of work than the 24 hours the junior copywriter put in? Should they pay the same? Or, should they pay more?

By current standards, most people would say that the effort should be rewarded, but that’s wrong. It’s results that count. And as the veteran copywriter actually produced a better selection of work, they should actually get paid more, despite working 16 hours less than the junior.

Netflix Already Works On This Principle

This is what a results-based agency should look like; and it’s the way a company like Netflix operates. At Netflix, results are rewarded, not hard work.

But there is, of course, a huge downside. When you serve your purpose, you are out. Netflix has a very high turnover, and many people talk about a “culture of fear.” Basically, no matter how hard you work, if you are no longer producing the results required, it’s time to move on.

Netflix has stated that it runs like a pro sports team, not a family. There is no focus on loyalty or hard work, but rather on passion, usefulness, results, and ability. Just like a pro sports team, if you don’t make the grade, you don’t make the team.

How Can This Be Implemented?

It’s not easy, and it’s not popular. This method of working can result in high turnover, although in advertising, as long as you are producing excellent results, there is no need to worry. It starts by having flexible hours. Who cares if someone comes in at 10am and leaves at 2pm?

If that person is killing it with the work, they are much more useful than someone who puts in 10 hours a day but only delivers mediocre work. By rewarding excellence, rather than hard work, you are sending a clear message. Also, encourage an environment of learning and self-improvement. The ad world horizon is constantly shifting, and as things move into a more digital arena, experts have to be on top of it. Otherwise, those people who cannot evolve will be replaced, quickly, by people already experts in the field.