Most companies do a terrible job of motivating their employees. There’s a reason why Daniel Pink’s book Drive is a best-seller.
Pink’s book is based on 50 years of research on how people are optimally motivated. My takeaway from this book is that there are three reasons people are motivated to achieve high performance and high levels of innovation:
1. The drive toward autonomy is powerful. We all want to own and have as much control as possible over where we focus our time and energy.
2. Mastery of skills is innate. We all want to achieve a higher level of mastery over time in the areas we focus on, whatever those areas may be. This is an internal, innate drive to improve performance and achieve a level of excellence. Even if this drive is repressed, Pink would argue that everyone has the ability to grow and achieve it.
3. A sense of purpose is inspiring. We all want to be contributing and impacting our world in a way that goes beyond fulfilling our own personal self-interest. A purposeful life means contributing to a greater good.
Whenever we go into a company to help unleash its hidden potential for organization-wide creativity, we find that individuals leap at the opportunity. They will do so in addition to their day jobs, regardless of whether they are rewarded with higher pay. There is a level of intrinsic reward inherent in creativity and innovation that motivates people to work way beyond what’s ordinarily required.
Organizations that reward with financial incentives and nothing else are missing the boat. Employees can sniff out when they’ve been had, and tokenism in terms of acknowledgment and reward won’t get the job done.
Options for rewarding employees
Don’t simply look at extrinsic financial incentives as a way to elevate the performance of your organization. Identify ways that individuals who contribute their time and energy can be rewarded.
What I’m talking about is reaching the point where everyone in the organization understands that innovation is valued not just by a select few, but by every individual. This attitude gets people excited about what they’re producing within their professional community.
When orchestras work together synergistically to achieve new levels of performance through collaboration, they aren’t merely going through the motions.
Creating a motivating environment
Pink’s point is that for many, if not most, of us, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about the paycheck. Environment matters. If two people are doing the same job, but one is female and making 20 percent less and knows she is, then it’s a demotivating factor.
There are certain parameters that create the foundation for a motivating environment. These ideas are not simple to execute. On a day-to-day basis, the C-suite will have to manage through operational realities. The key is to embed into the organization some of these reward and acknowledgment principles that support an innovative culture.
Once you’re on the road to having that in place, and people know you’re serious about providing space to allow imaginations to work, you will start seeing breakthrough results.