My PhD…in plain English

Inspired by @lizith on #phdchat, who has written a blog post describing her research in plain English, I thought I would give it a go myself. I would really value your thoughts, comments and questions…

If someone enjoys their work, does it because they care about what they’re doing, and works hard because it is personally important to them, is this the same as someone who works hard because they want to achieve a target and get their bonus at the end of the month. Would these people behave the same? There is a significant amount of experimental research which indicates that the first person will be more engaged in their work, feel more positive about it and have better overall satisfaction but the reality is that many organisations don’t understand the impact that pay and bonuses has on staff.

I am examining how different methods of rewarding people at work, in a number of different organisations, impact on how they behave and feel about their work. I’m interested in how people asses the value of their pay, how this then meets some of their fundamental needs, and how this impacts on the way that they are motivated.

I am using surveys to explore people’s general attitudes about pay & feedback, their motivation and the way they think about and behave toward their work. I am also going to focus in on people’s daily experiences and motivation at work through diaries to see how these interact with their more general attitudes and behaviours. I hope my research will help businesses to plan their reward strategies to get the best out of people for the benefit of the individuals as well as the organisation.


Filed under motivation, phd process, reward

14 responses to “My PhD…in plain English

  1. lizit

    Good to see my challenge catching on 🙂
    What you are doing sounds fascinating to me – and I have no problems understanding what you have written. However, I do wonder if some bits could be made clearer for the non-academic reader (which is where the plain English idea started from) – for instance, what kind of diaries. I can make a good guess what you mean, but for anybody who thinks of a diary as an appointment book…?
    You are also doing something that I know I do. You write long sentences, some of which have several ideas. OK not long as in some academic writing, but I guess, it depends on intended audience.
    The main lessons I am learning from this exercise are how relatively easy it is to get a basic grasp of other people’s research topics, and how much we all use language that may not always communicate to those outside the research community.
    Thanks for taking me up on this – I feel I am learning more about people and more about communication.

    • Thanks Liz, that’s really helpful. I know I have long-sentence syndrome too so I’ll look at those! Great point about the diaries too, thank you.

      I enjoyed it, although it was challenging – thanks for inspiring me!

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  3. Sounds like you may have a career’s-worth of research ahead of you. Will you be considering other rewards besides pay and bonus? In today’s world where flexibility and time off play a role in how people feel about their work, this could be important.

    You may also want to consider looking at differences between those who work primarily on commission, those who work for salary and bonus and those work for a salary alone. My experience suggests that sales people and others for whom most compensation is variable and performance-based may have a different attitude toward compensation, I’d also look at companies with strong performance-based pay tied to group performance to see what’s different about them.

    • Thanks for your comments, Wally. In order to make the research more manageable I’m focusing mainly on pay, bonus and the quality of feedback. But, I am looking for at least three organisations to base my research in so hope to get a mixture of performance, commission, group and individual incentives. As you say, I could go on forever with this touch so I’m going to be guided to some extent by the organisations that I can gain access to but will be trying for a good mix and perhaps some good examples of non-cash incentives.

  4. Like lizth, I have no problem understanding your research topic and it sounds really interesting. As someone working in a completely different field, I think you have articulated your research very well.

    It’s difficult at first to explain something you’re so familiar with, without using specialist language. I think it’s a valuable skill to have, especially when you need to communicate your findings to the people and organisations who will benefit, who may not be academics. That’s why this is a great exercise and why I’ll be having a go at it myself soon!

  5. jenhen84

    Hi Bex,
    Really enjoyed your post. Makes sense to me and there is a clear outcome to your research. I really like the examples you give at the beginning – they put things into context for me. I agree with Liz about long sentences. I’ve tried to use shorter sentences in my attempt but it’s really difficult sometimes. Do you think some aspects of research are too complex to write plainly?

    • jenhen84

      ps its @jennacondie by the way! I have managed to create two different wordpress accounts and cant figure out how to sync them. Jenna:)

    • Hi Jenna. Thanks for your comments.

      I agree about some aspects of the research being tricky to explain simply – I’ve found this exercise, and everyone’s useful comments, has helped me to do think about things in a more straightforward way!

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  7. Hello Bex,
    I have read your blog and I must say I really enjoyed it. The topic you’re working on is so much relevant to all of us, to me :). Perhaps it will be possible to read some conclusions on that 🙂
    I can say I fully understood your explanation, although first time I have read the first sentence I thought you took into account only people who enjoy their work and from that perspective you have begun your research. There are majority who do their work because they have to rather than they want to. However, after second and maybe third reading I realised this has to be more general approach, like if you enjoy your work why do you enjoy it.

  8. Hi Bex, a really nice clear attempt, the last sentence needs a little bit of editing , but i think you have a really clear study going on. I’d be interested to read it…always a good sign when it entices readers, and because I’ve been working with a not for profit organization I would be interested to know if you had thought about implications for this sector?
    Well done, ailsa.

    • Hi Ailsa.

      Thanks for your comments.

      I used to work for a not for profit which is what prompted my research in the first place because I was interested in how people who work for “a cause” feel about their reward. I hope to use a charity for some of my research.

  9. Bex, Really interesting subject. I used to be a HR Reward Director for a BU of a FTSE 30 company. I am a firm believer that financial reward alone is not a long term motivator, and I really don’t believe it engages over the long term. It has quite a short term

    Your use of feedback as well as the financial rewards is interesting. I was an advocate of great communications with reward – you might not like the reward you have (or have not!) been given, but if you can see it in context of the wider policies and management decisions, and you have it explained in relation to YOUR performance and the performance of the team/BU/org, then at least you should be able to see it as “fair”. It is also necessary in the feedback to show them how they might improve their performance to achieve greater rewards, and what those rewards look like.

    Sorry – am rabbiting on a bit now! Good luck with it. Very interesting subject.

    (ps if you ever want to chat about reward stuff, or need current/active Reward director contacts… DM on twitter: @deeclayton)

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