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In an earlier blog I have written about I-deals and how these could provide solutions for individual issues. But are these i-deals risky deals?  I am in favour of these i-deals. Still I also see there are a number of risks related to them. We should work to limit those risks.
A first issue is the limited accessiblity of i-deals. I am convinced that a company should allow for idiosyncratic deals as far as there is a mutual benefit. So i-deals are not accessible to all. Employees that do not contribute sufficiently will be less likely to deal for  i-deals.
There are two problems related to that. A first problem is that you might exclude people that have a lower than expected performance for whom an i-deal could be the solution. A second problem is that a proportion of people who would like an i-deal will not dare to ask.


Untitled (Manhole) by Maurizio Cattelan (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen)

The first problem you can solve by assessing all requests for an i-deal in terms of the future benefit and performance rather than being categorically judgemental about the present and the past. An i-deal may be the key to future success. The i-deal can also be conditional and entail performance improvement measures.
The second problem can be solved by encouraging people to look for personalised solutions if they want to. The fact that a company is not secretive about i-deals might contribute to a climate where people openly discuss the issues they are facing or the expectations that they have.
A second issue is the risk of precarity. Companies might try to negotiate i-deals that put people in a weak spot by e.g. introducing unreasonable demands for flexibility in terms of working hours or work schedules. Even when these deals are not in violation of the law, an individual employee might find himself in a weaker position in the negotiation. But it would be a pity to refrain from i-deals, because there is a risk of abuse. I am pleading for a set of clear collective arrangements in terms of minimal quality standards.
A third issue is the pressure on internal equity, especially when i-deals in terms of remuneration are entailed. I am generally not in favour of concluding i-deals that relate to remuneration. The reason for that is that unfortunately the monetary aspect of work leads to social comparison and thus jealousy. Financial i-deals might violate people’s expectations about procedural and distributive justice.
My advice is to regulate compensation by collective bargaining, mass customization and performance-related differentiation. Cafeteria plans are forms of mass customization that although being complex and labour-intensive, they offer a fixed framework that is available to everyone.
When introducing i-deals we should take heed of these risks. But when well managed i-deals should not be risky deals.

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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