The source of an employee’s motivation can have a profound effect on the work they produce. One factor for motivation may be compensation. However, for many employees, the opportunity to apply their skills and abilities to achieve a larger goal is an important driver. Knowing that they are contributing to a positive outcome for the organization leads to greater productivity and engagement.
Employers have been searching for the right balance between “hard” theory (motivation through reward) and “soft” management theory (motivation through recognition) that will spark their employees drive for success. Noted leadership expert, psychoanalyst, and anthropologist, Michael Maccoby, suggests in a Washington Post article that checking management techniques against the 5 R’s—responsibilities, relationships, rewards, recognition and reasons—is a useful strategy to engage employees in work that is meaningful to them.
Employers need to ensure employees know that their work matters. Most people are just as motivated by meaningful responsibilities as they are by the knowledge that their contributions are valuable. Maccoby comments that people who characterize themselves as ‘caring’ are propelled by philanthropic-based work while people who identify as a ‘craftsmen’ are driven by the desire to create a high-quality product.
Building good work relationships makes work more enjoyable and also contributes to higher productivity. Building strong, positive relationships with bosses, colleagues, clients and customers is motivating. Consider this: Gallup found that people who have a good friend in the workplace are more likely to be satisfied with their employment and those who have a best friend at work are 51 percent more likely to be engaged in their jobs.
What about rewards? When is the right time to offer rewards? Organizations today are questioning the impact of their financial incentives program because they don’t always guarantee high quality work. However, financial incentives offered as part of a formal company program encourage those employees motivated by money to go above and beyond. For this type of employee, what gets rewarded gets repeated.
Linking back to Maccoby’s theory regarding the satisfaction people derive from doing great and meaningful work, recognition can come in many forms including praise, stretch assignments or other professional growth opportunities. Managers should not overlook that people are often more motivated by public recognition and appreciation for their work than by money. A formal recognition program can help managers take the time to say thank you or to acknowledge an employee who has put extra effort into his or her work.
Finally, a leader who engages his or her employees through work that is meaningful and gives them the opportunity to take on stretch assignments is also offering their employees a powerful reason to come to work every day. Building a culture where employees see purpose in their jobs, enjoy good relationships and are recognized for their hard work and dedication requires strong management commitment. And while this work is by no means easy there are few things as gratifying as building a team that is truly inspired by their work. Organizations who can find a balanced motivational style will see the effects long term in higher employee productivity, performance and their bottom line.
Mia Mends is CEO, Sodexo Benefits & Rewards Services, USA.
— Sodexo USA, Inc. (@sodexoUSA) January 26, 2016