A group of robbers team up and get into group robbery. They are aware that robbery is outlawed. Still, they do it for some reason. But what would happen if the team members start robbing each other ? The group would soon collapse and cease to exist. Even though they break the law as a group, only if they follow the law within the group, the group shall survive. If, for example, one of the members is caught stealing, he would either be barred from the group or let off with stern warning or punishment. As far as each team member is concerned, he should do to others what he expects others to do to him ie., Non-stealing. This is the bare minimum integrity that is needed to keep the group or to put it differently, this is the internal consistency requirement.
Keeping employee expectations and motivations high in a resource constrained organization is a challenge. Smaller organizations that bring up the talent the hard way get poached within no time. There is no escaping from this. This is reality and one needs to cope with this. So what are the ways to cope with this ? How to sustain motivation while coping with people losses ?
One of the ways, is to focus on the positives and set realistic expectations and then introduce the notion of Integrity among people. Let me explain this in some detail.
Smaller organizations provide better exposure and employees. Exposure could be in terms of higher degree of ownership/responsibility, it could be exposure to various technologies, exposure to methodologies, exposure to customers, pre-sales and many more. We go ahead and convince people that some sacrifice (of money) is worth such exposure. But the question is how much of sacrifice and for how long ?
The how much and how long question can be addressed by setting realistic expectations and internal consistency requirements.
If we assume that “X” years of service is “long enough sacrifice” then, strike the deal with the employee that for X years, the exposure and learning is going to be enormous. But unbridled enthusiasm and hard work is expected in return. When the time comes ( ie., X years or so), the employee decides to stay or leave. But whatever be the decision, as long as one stays, they stay enthusiastic. No false promises will be made to hold them back. This culture of Get-in-> Exposure-Learning-Contribution->Stay_or_Quit should help keep things afloat till organization can do away with some of the constraints.
Where does internal consistency come in ?
It comes in the form staying focused and contributing positively as long as one is part of the group (in this case, the organization). The person can move out of the group on his/her own OR if there is a breach of internal consistency, the group membership could be revoked. This should keep the group clean and healthy !