THE FUTURE OF MOTIVATION
Todd Dewett | February 21, 2019
Most approaches to employee motivation fail to live up to the hype. We may have graduated from employee satisfaction to employee engagement, but the underlying assumptions are still wrong.
It appears most organizations are set up to push employees to be minimally compliant. The real goal should be maximized commitment. The first approach inevitably leads to many bad assumptions. These include: labor is just another asset, motivation is about giving people things, and profits are important above all else.
Higher-performing teams and organizations do things differently. They know they must partner with employees, they know intrinsic motivation always beats external motivation, and they know that while profits are wonderful, teams crave something deeper.
Most organizations, however, are still lost. Their misplaced ideas lead in predictable directions. The planet is now covered in all manner of programs designed to give employees “stuff.” Sometimes they value the stuff. Sometimes they don’t. Silly stuff. Fun stuff. Useful stuff. So what. Stuff never creates sustained motivation.
Gamification. Points programs. Corporate catalogs jammed with endless pages of “stuff.” This massive investment in giving away coffee cups and gift certificates should not logically be expected to foster excellence or break through thinking. It just creates carrot chasers.
To attract and develop positive change makers, real improvement junkies who are never satisfied with doing just enough, you have to change your mindset. It’s time to stop over-investing in carrots and start investing in purpose.
The future of motivation is about helping your people with life, not seducing them with stuff. Instead of new clever ways to give out material things, tomorrow’s successful organization will rely far more heavily on creating purpose through three things: fit, ownership, and character. In fact, your future workforce will demand them.
Fit is about the proper alignment of one’s personality, interests, skills, and the needs of the team and organization. Fit changes over time and it’s not always easy to help a person shift roles and responsibilities to maintain quality alignment, but it’s worth the effort. High fit individuals are more productive, have longer tenures, and openly advocate on behalf of the organization. Think past the short-term implications of simple job descriptions and start thinking about long-term fit.
Next is ownership. When people have ownership, they know they truly matter. There are two major perspectives here. One is actual ownership using some form of equity, or at least a version of profit sharing. The second form of ownership is about giving people voice. Voice is having input in decisions that affect you. Inclusion on all matters of significance. When given strong voice, employees become fiercely loyal and far more hard working.
Finally, we have character. Character is the presence of something valuable beyond the outcomes typically associated with a work agreement. Something more than pay. Many refer to culture, though too many cultures are toxic. Instead, let’s focus on the positive possibilities that make a workplace desirable: sustainable behaviors, community involvement, pro employee practices, etc. Companies need to chase profits, but to build a workplace defined by character they must realize that much more is possible.
Here is your call to action. Work to develop a team that is more than average, more than minimum, and more than compliant. Think about what it means to become a destination workplace. Don’t worry, you already have the resources you need to make this happen. You just need to stop over investing in “stuff.” In the face of fit, ownership, and character, stuff becomes far less relevant. Just imagine what else you could do with those funds. Better yet, ask the team what they think.