My kids laughed at me.

Are you serious?


Ok, fine, you’re right.  No incentive for getting your chores done. You’re a part of this house and we expect you to get them done.

That’s how our chore conversation went.  
The incentive didn’t work.  
The punishment didn’t work. 

In the end, it just came down to duty and responsibility.

I get this email regularly:

“Hey John, I want to hire an OFS and have a set of bonuses and incentives for them rather than just paying a salary. 



My kids just laughed at the incentive up front. 
The incentive didn’t help.

With an OFS, it often makes things worse.

What I’ve seen is that the OFS starts to worry that if they don’t hit the targets that they’re going to get demoted or they’re going to let the employer down.

Julia, my OF Content Specialist says:
This is understandable because this is what happens around most sales/quota/target oriented jobs in the Philippines.

This is especially prevalent in the BPO industry. If you have an underperforming team (you’re not hitting the desired metrics consistently), you’ll get penalized. The most common penalty is you’ll be given the shift that no one wants (no incentives, high volume of irate calls). Each mistake counts as a strike and the strikes are cumulative. Do it often enough the team manager or team members do get demoted or fired. There’s a culture in BPOs where you have to hit the metrics at all costs. So the employees take fewer risks. They’re less likely to think critically or be creative because they’re worried that if they deviate from the script, it can affect their targets.

That’s why we have a lot of online workers from the BPO industry. The stress of shift work PLUS the pressure to hit targets (or else) gets to them. That’s why Jam got hypertension which eventually encouraged him to stop working for BPOs.

When you work in sales, as soon as you hit your target they’ll increase your target for the next sales cycle. At first, you’re motivated because the incentives are also bigger. But once you fail to hit that higher target, you’ll be demoted. So it makes more sense to just stick to the bare minimum. Because when you go above and beyond, you’re penalized as soon as you make a mistake.

Doesn’t matter if you did an excellent job prior to not hitting your current targets. The quality of the work doesn’t matter. This standard in the Philippine corporate culture is the reason why a lot of VAs are afraid to take risks. 

But back when I still had a corporate job, I also experienced something that actually encouraged the employees to do better.

In the company I worked for before I started working online, we did indexing and analyzing scientific and academic journals for Elsevier. We had a daily quota of covering 40 journals per day. We always hit that quota and always managed to exceed that quota. There were even days where we ran out of things to do. We were able to do this because:

1. After the training period, we gave newbies time to gradually hit the target. We all started with 10 journals per day for a week. Then 15, 20, so on and so forth.
2. Once we hit the target, that’s when we’re shown the incentive ladder. It shows us how much more we can get if we hit 45, 50, 60, etc. We’re not forced to exceed the targets. But it really encouraged us to go beyond our 40 limit because we knew that 40 is something we can easily achieve in a day.
3. The 40 target is easy enough to hit on a regular basis. But on the rare occasion that we didn’t hit the target (we had to index a full book instead of a journal or we ran out of things to do) we’re not penalized for those days. We can make up for it the following day and have our excess work cover and shortages in the previous days.
4. We had flexible hours. The company allowed us to work when we were most productive. The business I worked for can afford to do this because we did have a department that had round the clock operations. So allowing people to set their own hours made sense. In my case, I knew I was most productive in the mornings. I would start working at 6am and I would hit my target before noon. Any work I did after lunch was in excess. 

What I recommend is to give them unannounced bonuses.  
Add $25-$50 to their salary and say “Thank you for doing great work.”


PS. I talk about this and so many more things in The Outsourcing Lever