The Procrustean approach to employee engagement and recognition…

the bed of procrustes

Greek mythology tells of a son of Poseidon named Procrustes, who welcomed passersby into his home, fed them a warm meal, and invited them to spend the night. The catch: the guest would have to fit his iron bed just perfectly, neither too tall nor too short. Tall guests would find their limbs cut to the exact length of the bed. Shorter ones would be stretched on a rack until they satisfied the dimension of the bed. Too often, I sense that SaaS models assume a similar approach with the client.

Technology built on a multi-tenant platform can be a highly effective and efficient model for certain applications. There are many examples, including the operating systems, web technology, and office suites we all use most every day. However, when you factor in those aspects of an organization that make it unique –  the complex mélange of HRIS, Financial, Logistics, Operational, and Communications systems, tuned to deliver specific data, insight and information, across Sales, Finance, Operations, R&D, Distribution, Marketing, etc. –  the likelihood of  satisfying these divergent priorities becomes tenuous, at best.

Many of the players in the Employee Engagement space these days showcase their SaaS model for communicating, recognizing, rewarding and measuring individual achievement and appreciation. One of the common problems associated with these service providers is that they are, in many ways, built on a Procrustean infrastructure that requires the client to either, (a) accept what the service provider offers for functionality, reporting and communicating, or (b) amend its strategies around who to recognize, how to recognize them, and what to recognize them with.

The most frequent complaints I hear from customers of these “multi-tenant” technology models center on inflexibility and misalignment of the systems, interface, and processes. The companies sell their technology much in the same way that a CRM provider markets their wares – as a “one size fits all” tool that will work within any organizational model. The problem is that while a CRM houses data, organizes, tracks, monitors and reports on very specific  issues (customer relationship and sales, typically), an effective employee engagement and recognition tool must satisfy many differing requirements. The result is more akin to “one size fits one size”.

Smaller companies, generally with less than 500 employees, can usually be configured to fit within most of the available rewards and recognition technology provided by companies that offer only a SaaS model. Larger, multi-national organizations, certainly those which have grown by acquisition, are not likely  a good fit for the SaaS approach. So what are these frustrated organizations to do? One solution is to look beyond the marketing hype, to find out if a potential provider offers technology on BOTH a single-tenant as well as a multi-tenant basis.

A single-tenant model, when built alongside a multi-tenant strategy, can offer many of the cost efficiencies, while harnessing the customizations that make your organization, your culture and your brand unique. The costs may appear slightly higher, but not necessarily so, when you look at the true cost of having to settle for what a provider can deliver instead of what your company really needs.

The bottom line: Before making a decision to work with a service provider that offers ONLY a multi-tenant technology for your organization, dig a little deeper and find the partner that has a more adaptable, flexible, functional and cost-effective alternative – which may just be the single-tenant option.

If you need some help identifying who is purely multi-tenant, and who can more effectively help you to meet your exact requirements, feel free to drop me a line. When it comes to attracting and retaining your most valued human capital, you should not have to compromise for the sake of a supplier.


Footnote:  A fond acknowledgement to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, for his wonderful and thought-provoking book, The Bed of Procrustes – Philosphical and Practical Aphorisms, a source of inspiration and fodder for exercising (or exorcising) the intellect.

One response to “The Procrustean approach to employee engagement and recognition…

  1. A great post Rick

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