Friday, 26 August 2016

Motivation for Change?

Ever heard the line, or something like: “we need to change things now and we need to get people motivated to get on with it!”

A survey of senior managers across dozens of organisations asked a seemingly straightforward question about motivating employees and discovered a clear consensus in “Recognition for good work” as the number one motivator.  Well, it seems that all of those managers were wrong.  So, if praise and recognition don’t motivate, what else is there?

Research has now concluded that the key indicator of performance is not recognition but progress.  When people believe they are getting on and making headway, their emotions are positive and they are driven to succeed.  On days when we feel like we are spinning in circles, hitting our heads against a wall or encountering problems then our moods and motivations plummet.

Common sense really, and the research is based on many thousands of survey results, so what does this mean for managers?  Well its pretty good news since it suggests you don’t need to rely on complex incentive systems but can focus efforts on the things that help, rather than hinder, employees to make progress.  In other words, do the practical stuff – be clear about goals and objectives and help your people to achieve them.  And that’s it!

Psychologist Frederick Herzberg suggested that you cannot motivate people but you can definitely de-motivate them.  He showed that by eliminating the things that annoy people (poor training, no reward or recognition, lack of job security etc.) can create peace but not motivate anyone to improve performance.  These are things he called hygiene factors.  The way to create satisfaction with work becomes the job of managers to match people’s skills and abilities to the work, give responsibility and opportunity and support. He also recognised that everyone is different and it is essential to understand what matters to each individual.

Author Dan Pink made similar observations, saying that the most important thing to do is not to offer rewards and incentives but to help people to satisfy their innate desire for autonomy and self-direction.  Pink hypothesises that if we are intrinsically, rather than extrinsically motivated we perform better and are generally happier.  He gives many examples and some straightforward toolkit suggestions on how to achieve this

Finally, this rings true for the work that PIU do.  The people we work with aren’t incentivised in any way, apart from with tea and biscuits.  However, they do spend hours reviewing their work processes and strive to create improved re-designs that can be implemented.  We try to support them by providing tools, techniques and facilitation to enable them to do this and to leverage their subject matter expertise to make things better.  We don’t motivate them but we work to create the conditions in which they can make progress and, funny old thing, but that seems to provide all the motivation that is needed.

So my question for managers and leaders is: "how do you support your people, as teams and as individuals, to learn, grow, develop and make meaningful progress in their work, not just for one off problem fixes but as part of their day to day work?"

Thoughts on a postcard please to PIU.

Thanks for reading.

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