What Wells Fargo Teaches Us about Safety Incentives and Goals

Wells Fargo created a culture where cross-selling and “eight-a-day” (reference to new accounts expected daily from sales people) were the norm. This norm, praised as a leadership success, became so powerful that activities related to the goal breached legal and ethical boundaries on multiple levels. Result: 5,300 employees fired over a 5-year period, a $185M fine in Sept 16, and one CEO resignation on 12 Oct 16.

Goals and incentives are potent. Goals work to align perspective and behavior…for good and bad.

Want less injury reports? Incentivize it. Talk about it. Track injury reports on the CEO’s desktop. You’ll drive a decrease over the next quarter. Why? Ask Wells Fargo.

Want to make a lasting difference (i.e. increase safe behavior and work practices)? Invest in training. Praise near-miss reporting. Track EHS leading indicators (when matched with business value drivers).

Goals untempered by core values skew behavior.

Values must precede goals.

They are the reason the horses pull the stagecoach…and not the reverse.


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