TEU rejects performance pay in education

Posted By TEU on May 24, 2012 |

The government’s announcement that it wants to introduce performance pay into the education sector flies in the face of research and good practice says TEU national president Sandra Grey.

“Most of the credible evidence shows that performance pay in any sector, but especially in education, is demotivating. The main benefit for employers is simply that, over time, it lowers the total amount they need to spend on salaries or wages.”

US motivation expert Dan Pink recently noted that reward systems often backfire. In fact, compensation based upon performance may actually lead to worse academic results for students.

“The research shows that money matters. It just matters in a slightly different way than we suspect. Paying people unfairly — say, when Jane makes less than June for the same work — is extremely demotivating. And, of course, low salaries can deter some people from pursuing certain professions. Therefore, the best use of money as a motivator, at least for complex work, is to compensate people fairly and to try to take the issue of money off the table.  That means paying healthy base salaries…”

Dr Grey said performance pay for education would be a harmful idea for education in New Zealand, including for academic, general/allied staff and for students in tertiary education.

Management researcher Alfie Kohn says performance pay makes employees feel that they are being punished, it is manipulative, it ruptures good workplace relations and it deters risk-taking. Mr Kohn notes

“Not a single controlled study has shown a long-term improvement in the quality of work as a result of any reward system. That would be an astonishing fact were it not for the existence of scores of studies – conducted with adults as well as children, in real workplaces among other venues – that have demonstrated how rewards tend to be not merely ineffective but powerfully counterproductive.”

Print Friendly