. Shifting Employee Motivation | Northstar Meetings Group

Shifting Employee Motivation

I recently attended a speech by best-selling author Daniel Pink, who wrote To Sell is Human. In it, he summarized research on shifts in employee motivators. The old "if-then motivators" of giving bonuses for the achievement of goals no longer work, he said.

Pink described the motivators in today's knowledge economy as being autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy is the ability to define one's own work; the tasks; the required time; the best technique; and the best team required. Mastery means being afforded the time to make progress on improving one's own work. Purpose entails knowing that the work being done has meaning or adds value. 

The Challenge

When these new motivators are in play, employees become "engaged." Active engagement entails commitment to the organization's goals and values, motivation to contribute to the organization's success, and a sense that doing so enhances employees' own well-being. It creates alignment between the employee's and organization's goals.

Old incentives and management were focused on gaining compliance. New incentives and management styles must shift to increasing engagement if an organization is to remain competitive and retain talent in today's world. 

The New Management

According to 10 years of Gallup Poll data, a full 80 percent of the workforce is at least somewhat engaged. Leaders and supervisors now must focus on practices that (1) get employees to competence and autonomy quickly, (2) aid employee efforts to achieve mastery, and (3) continuously instill a sense of purpose in the work being done.

Supervisors should act as "partners" who facilitate employees' abilities to achieve mastery. The litmus test for any manager? If your employees don't improve their performance during a given period, then you have failed to add value to the organization during that period and are a cost without benefit. 

The road to adding value to your employees is paved with regular, frequent, and meaningful conversations about performance, problems, ideas for improvement, and how as a supervisor you can support achieving employee goals. Feedback is critical both to development of mastery and to instilling/maintaining a sense of purpose in work. 

Frequent interactions need to replace the annual evaluation that is based on a judgment rather than a partnership paradigm. More frequent dialogue between managers and employees is essential. 

This includes:

* Giving clearer direction on the needed outcomes, priorities, purpose of the position
* Defining what good performance would look like for a given responsibility
* Giving more feedback on employee performance
* Granting more authority or autonomy for decision-making, problem solving, and altering methods employed
* Making decisions needed by employees more rapidly
* Assuring that employees have the resources needed to succeed
* Giving more credit/appreciation for the results delivered, i.e. strengthening a sense of purpose
* Ask employees how to improve performance in their work areas and how management can support those ideas

Regularly addressing these topics shifts the organizational culture and supervisor-employee relationship. This shift is rewarding both for supervisors and employees, and it has huge potential for performance improvement.  

William M. Dann spent 13 years as a CEO before launching his consulting business, Professional Growth Systems, LLC,  in 1981. Additionally, Dann has taught at the graduate level at Boston University for several years, and is also the founder of BoardGrowth.com. He currently resides in Anchorage with his family.