Happy, smiling and engaged employees are vital. And when they aren’t happy, the world tends to find out about it quickly.
These days, a single disgruntled UPS driver hurls a package 100ft to a door and it’s a viral YouTube smash hit.
So how do we foster engaged and productive workers?
Daniel H. Pink’s Drive (isbn 978 1 84767 769 3) explains when the good old stick and carrot no longer work and why they can have the opposite effect you require on both engagement and productivity. Pink shows that employees who consider themselves fairly paid are not further motivated by bonuses if they are involved in creative work.
In fact, external pressure by censure or reward tends to cause degradation in performance rather than improvement. It turns out that what really engages employees is the chance to do a good job and to be fully engaged whilst doing it. Dan Pink refers to this state as “Flow”.
Flow is the wonderful state of mind we achieve when doing something that holds all our attention, stretches us mentally and leaves us with a sense of having “done something” when a task is completed. Most importantly, it leaves us hungry for more. If you want an example of how motivating Flow is, try prising a teenager away from their Nintendo DS in mid-game (but please ensure your medical insurance is paid up first). Hand in hand with Flow is the concept of Mastery.
We don’t just want to be average at what we do. It’s unfulfilling, boring and does little to enhance our sense of happiness. We want to get better at what we do and enjoy the rewards that true Mastery brings – recognition from our colleagues, happy customers and a sense of a job well done. All of this points to the vital role of personalised learning and development in the workplace.
To be highly motivated, we need to be both well trained and also allowed the autonomy to improve.
I’m certain that Pink has a point. After all – who wouldn’t want to be a Master of their trade?