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What Drives People

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How can we make every employee contribute to an organization’s success? How can we ensure that our most talented employees continue to thrive? How can we keep our employees motivated? These are some of the questions that keep almost every leader up at night.

In a study by Gallop Organization, a profound finding came to light. Only 26% of employees worldwide are engaged while nearly 55% are disengaged at work. ‘Disengagement’ leads to low productivity, less manned hours (demotivated employees will spend less time at office), unproductive meetings, dissatisfied teams, more unproductive conflicts, and a higher attrition rate.

Gallop used a list of 12 questions to get to the root of the problem. They measured the core fundamentals needed to invite, motivate, and retain the most talented employees in organizations. The questions were as follows:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

None of the above-mentioned questions touches the monetary incentive part. It is not a surprise that even some highly paid employees fall into the ‘disengaged’ category. It is quite tempting to point fingers at the disengaged group and say, “It is all because of them.” Well, the other school of thought advocates that the talented employees need great managers. A great manager embraces the power to sculpt the most talented bunch out of disengaged people.

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We’ll be able to create an unstoppable force of employees if we make them see their work serving a larger community or a larger part of the organization. The carrot or stick principle couldn’t do what intrinsic motivation did in the case of Mozilla Firefox or Wikipedia. In both the cases, self-motivated folks came together and built a larger community by doing what they love doing.

How do we tap into the intrinsic motivation of people at our workplace?

Solution 1: Acknowledgement.

“Don’t forget, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.” –H. Jackson Brown Jr.

In an experiment done by Dan Ariely, three groups were asked to find pairs of letters that were identical next to each other on a sheet of paper with random letters printed on it. Dan’s team offered some money to people who agreed to do the task.

The groups did the first sheet then were offered a little less money for the next paper, a little bit less for the next one, and so on and so forth. First group was asked to write their name on the completed sheet. The experimenter scanned it carefully, said “Uh huh,” and kept it on a pile.

The second group wasn’t asked to write their name on their papers. The experimenter took the sheet and put it on the pile without even looking at it. In the third group’s case the experimenter took the sheet and put it directly into a shredder.

As a result, the third group immediately denied to do any more pages, the second group tried a few pages more before quitting, and the first group did a few more than the second group, even with a decreasing money incentive.

When work done is not acknowledged, it leads to a steep drop in worker motivation.

Solution 2: Larger Purpose.

During the world war era, many prison officers used to follow one of the most torturous ways to handle prisoners. In this, prisoners were asked to dig a huge hole in the ground and when the prisoners finish the digging part, guards ask them to fill the hole back up. What tortured these prisoners was not the harsh work they did but the outcome of their hard work. The digging became a meaningless job for them.

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In today’s corporate world we create a lot of reports, arrange thousands of meetings and conference calls, and follow millions of processes. Our leaders need to enable people to be able to see a direct connection between their work and the larger goal. Employees need to find meaning or purpose to their work for them to be intrinsically motivated by it.

Solution 3: Challenging Work.

Xerxes Desai, the first managing director of the Titan Company noticed his people losing motivation. Without wasting any time he thought about designing a new challenge for them. In order to challenge himself and his entire team, he decided to create the thinnest water-resistant watch – the Titan Edge (which was quite a wild dream at that point of time).

Desai’s daring move created a buzz in the organization and uplifted his employees’ motivation by many folds. So, the bottom line is – people need to find the work challenging to be truly attached to their work or workplace.

What drives your people? We would love to hear from you and your success stories!

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