Motivation at Work – an Update

Today I want to give you a number of recent articles and views on motivation at work – a topic that continually challenges both us and our staff.

  1. Firstly from Francesca Gino of Harvard (originally from Italy and the inspiration behind “Rebel Talent” and that wonderful phrase constructive nonconformity). In an article titled “To motivate employees show them how they’re helping customers,” Francesca talks about some very recent research from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Caroline by Adam Grant and others. The key factor that improved motivation in this work was ensuring a direct connection between a staff member and those that benefit from his or her work, be they internal to the company or customers and clients. My take on this is if your employee is sorting screws in the warehouse, take them to a customer that benefits from this seemingly boring task – show them the benefits of their labour – give them purpose with a small p

  2. Secondly from Monique Valcour of EDHEC in France in an article titled “Motivating people starts with having the right attitude.” She views the motivation issue from the leaders’ point of view. We all know (or we all should know – even though we may think its a bit fluffy!) that high levels of employee motivation are found when those employees feel valued, trusted, challenged and supported in their work. We often think and talk about staff attitudes – and yes that is important – but so are our attitudes as their leaders. Valcour puts forward the argument that all too often leaders take the traditional view that “the only thing we can do is pay them more,” or “people are either motivated or not – its their choice,” but leaders have the greatest influence on their staff’s motivation so their attitude is of paramount importance. The most significant finding from her work (and this confirms many other studies) is how employees experience work from day to day has a far greater influence on their motivation than any compensation programme or incentive package. Leaders’ attitudes and behaviours invariably have a major influence on how employees experience work from day to day. So don’t give up on the seemingly unmotivated. Try to be more “humanistic” – whatever that may mean to you (it could be saying good morning for a grumpy old man, or finding out what does motivate our employees by talking and asking questions, for someone of a more gentle nature!)

  3. And to finish off, something from a bloke (I know last Wednesday was Women’s day so I thought the two articles above would be fitting, especially since it is an accepted fact that women are more highly educated (in the OECD), and are recognised, via many studies, to be more likely to enjoy higher levels of Emotional Intelligence, which is, again, recognised as being the most crucial factor in successful leadership – sorry guys!) A great article in the Farnam Street Blog about the three things Warren Buffett looks for in a person when employing. Intelligence, Energy and Integrity. We can’t choose how intelligent or energetic we are – those qualities are a part of us and are very difficult to influence. We decide whether we want to be dishonest, stingy, uncharitable or egotistical. We cant blame our genetic make up for these things – they are decisions that we make. Buffett’s take is that if he finds any evidence of dishonesty, or a lack of integrity, he will not hire. No matter how intelligent or energetic that person is. And how do we find that out in the interview process? Ask the right questions in the right way – and if you don’t know, ask me!

Be well, stay focused, intelligent, energetic and honest Cheers Phil Pickford

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