Article: Rewards: Look at your karma, not 'phal'

Compensation & Benefits

Rewards: Look at your karma, not 'phal'

The scope of rewards in learning and development investments in organizations need an in-depth view
Rewards: Look at your karma, not 'phal'

Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana,

“You have the right to perform your actions, but you are not entitled to the fruits of the actions.
(Translation Source:

This eponymous verse of the Bhagawad Gita, about Krishna exhorting Arjuna to get on with his duties in the Epic War that he is not willing to fight is quoted as the gold standard for action over results.

At the risk of going against the tide (and I recognize it is not fashionable), I would like to present my view on Rewards and Recognition: Unless the “fruits of labour” (impact of L&D initiatives) are thought of and quantified the “action” (dispensing Learning programs) is futile.

By any stretch of imagination, we live and work in a world that is far less enlightened and where cause and effect are not a linear correlation. Assessing all the efforts by and for talent that need to be rewarded in an organization, and getting the art and science of it right is today a subject of much research and development.

By some estimates, worldwide spends by organizations on their L&D tops $140 billion. India is one of the leading nations in terms of spends in Asia at a significant $29.1 billion. This does not include the spending by organizations in creating and maintaining their L&D teams. Given this scenario, can we afford to look only at ‘karm’ and not be worried about the ‘Phal’? What part, if any, of this $29 billion is spent on measuring and rewarding L&D efforts and how effective are the present methods?

My endeavor is to generate food for thought on this ‘action and fruit’ within the scope of total rewards in the space of Training & Development investments by organizations. And importantly, why it’s an area that needs deeper thought.

1. Attendance/Coverage (Karm) ≠ Learning

Just providing the learning opportunity alone might have been good enough for the mythical world of righteous, but is it enough to assume that people just attending or “check-in” to training programs have got the fruit of knowledge?
Meaningful measurement of learning credits will lead to meaningful rewards to the participants, the L&D teams as well as learning partners.

2. Knowledge Gained ≠ L&D Objective Achieved (Phal)

Is therefore the fruit of L&D efforts to be measured and rewarded on knowledge gained? (Level 2 of the Kirkpatrick model) Is an organization’s reward for investments in training and developing its workforce to be measured in just the collective knowledge gained? What part of that knowledge is actually applied? How does one therefore measure the reward for an organization’s investments in learning in a manner that is meaningful and actually helps gauge the impact on the business of such initiatives?

3. Demonstrated Change (Karm) = Total Rewards of L&D Investments (Phal)

The answer lies in rewarding employees who demonstrate visible change from what they have got from the learning initiatives. True return on investments in talent development can only be linked to application of learning. Similarly the effectiveness of various learning initiatives can also be gauged by ‘impact’ and not just by “likability”.

Imagine an ad campaign that a marketing team invests in as part of a product launch. Would they be happy if everybody just “likes” the ad or is the ultimate measure of success, the awareness/incremental sales or some such business goal?

A system that enables driving commitments and help monitor change post learning initiatives will provide insights to the L&D manager to seek buy-in from business, channelize L&D Investments into the right kind of programs and see themselves as enablers of change beyond the role of a curator and dispenser of knowledge.

Thus, our actions as L&D professionals need to address the ‘Karm’ from the ‘Phal’ that business and organizations desire, invest in practices and systems that enable that, else we are just going through the motions.

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Topics: Compensation & Benefits, Learning & Development, #TotalRewards, #HRMetrics

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