Francis Wade | Restoring lost motivation
Bob Marley famously jammed: "No bullet can stop us now, we'll neither beg nor we won't bow".
His aspiration called for bold and brave actions, in keeping with the highest standards. However, most corporate executives don't believe their employees are Marleys, William-Gordons, or Bogles.
Instead, they complain: Is pure Bredda Anansi we have!
As a result, these leaders scoff at Bob's next line: "Neither can be bought nor sold."
Long ago, they gave up on such lofty visions for their staff. Now, their primary concern is paying the lowest wage-price possible to purchase just enough employee motivation to make a profit. It's usually more than they think they can afford, which keeps them up at night, worrying.
If you try to convince them that their people are better than this, watch as they pull out surveys to "prove" that staff only wants one thing: more money.
As I have reported in this column, research shows that such reactions are misleading. In fact, the pat answers, so easily believed, don't match daily behaviour.
A 5 per cent increase in pay doesn't, by itself, produce a corresponding increase in productivity. Executives who really want to motivate employees must reach past flawed data, mistaken reasoning, and their own incorrect instincts to find better information that illuminates the truth.
The newest revelation arrives in the form of a method to measure each employee's current reasons for working. According to the authors of Primed to Perform", Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor, there are six motivations that lie on a continuum.
Intrinsic motivator 1 Play: Employees at this level do their jobs primarily because they love the activity. They lose themselves in their work and enjoy moments when they can engage in it wholeheartedly. They are often your highest performers.
Intrinsic motivator 2 Purpose: In this case, staff members may not care for the work but they are driven by the immediate impact they have on other people, society or country. They put service above self.
Intrinsic motivator 3 Potential: If the major benefit employees derive builds personal skills or capacity, it belongs in this category. In other words, their role leaves them more capable or better positioned for the future.
Extrinsic motivator 1 Emotional pressure: This level involves trying to alleviate unwanted feelings such as guilt, shame or fear. They don't come from the work itself, but are linked with merely having a job.
Extrinsic motivator 2 Economic pressure: If rewards and punishments are driving individuals to perform, they are probably motivated by a sense of tangible gain or loss.
Extrinsic motivator 3 Inertia: The work is being performed today only because it repeats what was done yesterday and the day before. This is perhaps the most deadening, unconscious state to be in.
Take a moment to scan your workforce one staff member at a time, assigning each person to a level. What do the combined results tell you about your company's culture?
If your conclusion alarms you, consider the two following interventions.
First, teach managers to notice motivation levels and act accordingly. Start by advising them that part of their job is, over time, to shift the distribution to the better motivators. Give them the tools, training, and other elements they need to coach people effectively.
One of the obstacles they may have to overcome is an inability to relate: The chances are high that they were promoted because they were already self-motivated. They must learn to get past their own achievement to reach employees who aren't like them.
Second, train employees to enrich their own experience. Most people simply don't know how to shift themselves to being consistently intrinsically motivated. Instead, they operate as if their moods are random, along with their attitudes towards their work.
You may be concerned about the training cost. Much can be done on a low budget. Usually, it's the clear commitment from the top that's missing. Just pick an approach from one of the main schools of thought and implement it systematically, starting with the executive team.
All worthwhile transformations include organisational leaders. As a member of top management, you can start by accepting the part you have played in contributing to the current state of employee motivation. Even if you recently joined the firm, the faster you take responsibility, the quicker you'll be on the side of those who are trying to effect change.
It's never easy to own the influence you have in an area so fraught with misunderstanding. Many of your colleagues may not see things the way you do. However, go ahead and launch an attempt; it can make a big difference in the lives of everyone in your enterprise.
- Francis Wade is a management consultant and author of "Perfect Time-Based Productivity". To receive a Summary of Links to past columns, or give feedback, email: columns