Over the years the science behind motivation has changed very little. Best-selling author, Daniel Pink has repeatedly exposed the mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Business is built around extrinsic motivators such as the use of ‘carrots and sticks’, rewards and punishments which seems to do more harm than good.
Root of the Problem
I believe this is the root of the dismal lack of employee engagement—recent Gallop surveys claim in excess of 70%. Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallop has been an outspoken critic of “bad managers” which he believes are the cause of the problem. He thinks that engagement levels will remain at unacceptably low levels until business leaders stop tolerating ineffective managers and team leaders.
Pink asserts that extrinsic motivators only work well when there is a simple set of rules and a clear destination. However, the business world tends not to have clearly defined rules and solutions, or clear destinations. If you really want high performance, the obvious strategy is to use intrinsic motivation.
Here is Pink’s of list of the three main areas of Intrinsic Motivation that address basic human needs:
1. Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives.
2. Mastery – the desire to get better and better at something that matters.
3. Purpose- the yearning to do what we want to in the service of something larger than ourselves.
Knowledge workers and Millennials which not make up the majority of the work force today are more highly influenced by these intrinsic motivators—which managers are not skilled in providing. Pink stresses that providing opportunities for Autonomy is critical because it promotes engagement and self-direction.
Implement These Tactics
With that in mind consider the following tactics which are essentially free to implement.
1. Acknowledge positive accomplishments and progress.
Engaged employees say that they feel good when their manager or team leader, has recently spoken about their progress in their jobs. Every manager must be accountable for lifting people up and making them feel appreciated and valued for their progress.
2. Encourage personal/professional development.
Every enterprise must provide ways for employees to increase their skills and knowledge. Investing in employee training and development is not an expense — it’s an investment! That investment must first be made in team leaders and managers so they can experience the benefits personally.
3. Clear expectations
To be a top performer, an employee must know what is expected otherwise engagement levels will fall. Employees should not have to guess at what is expected of them particularly when they are penalized for guessing wrong.
The first step is to equip all team leaders and managers to practice these and other skills that provides intrinsic motivation and meet employees needs. The return on investment will be increased morale, productivity, and higher levels of retention and engagement.
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