Motivating people is the single biggest issue facing businesses today.

Jan 30, 2014

Motivating people is vital. If you are a leader it’s your responsibility to make sure your people are motivated. If you are running your own business you need to keep yourself motivated. But do you really know what motivates people?

It might not be the things you expect. Money for example is not a motivator, but lack of money can be a de-motivator.

So, what does motivate people? This animated TED talk from Dan Pink reveals some very interesting facts.

Did you realise that:

  • 2 million Americans voluntarily leave their jobs every month (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • 74% of people would today consider finding a new job
  • 32% of employees are looking for a new job
  • Only 47.3 percent of currently employed Americans are satisfied with their position (Conference Board
  • The majority of American employees are disengaged from their work (Gallup)
  • Entrepreneurs are more likely to have an optimistic view about their futures than other employees (Gallup)

Motivating people is clearly a big issue. My experience is that the UK is no different to the USA. It is more than likely that the problem extends across most economies in the developed world.

In the US there has been a big exodus from the “cubicle” resulting in a huge number of fledgling internet business startups. This route isn’t for everyone, and starting a business involves a lot of graft and doesn’t instantly reap the millions of easy dollars some of the internet business gurus would claim. The real answer is to sort out the workplace and deliver the satisfaction that is missing from most employee’s work experience. Business leaders need to react urgently to engage and motivate their people.

Dan Pink has assembled some significant research on motivation, and this TED talk from Dan gives a good overview of his findings.

So, according to Dan there are three key factors to motivation:

  • The individual’s Ability to control his own schedule
  • The desire for mastery
  • The need to serve the greater good

In short these can be summed up as freedom, passion and purpose. None of these include money. Dan is quite clear, stick and carrot type reward systems do not work. Pay people sufficient to take money off the table, paying too little will cause a problem, but offering bonuses won’t drive results. This calls into question most traditional performance management and appraisal systems.

Passionate people deliver great value and delight customers. Delighted customers will lead to long term profitable relationships. How many companies have people right at the centre of the corporate mission and vision?

Business leaders need to radically rethink corporate objectives, and made sure that people are right at the centre.Some of this can take us into quite radical thinking.

Suppose we make the key objective to become an employer of choice?  Gain recognition as a top 100 employer? perhaps even target an award for excellence in that area? Most of the companies on the top 100 lists are usually also the ones who are the most successful in their field.

Are you prepared to allow your staff to truly control their own schedule?

Is employee satisfaction the first thing we look at on the performance dashboard? Or is it profit? Or something to do with sales? Surely employee satisfaction, or better still, passion and motivation is the lead indicator that will drive future success for almost every business.

Equally though, we need to measure the demotivators. The things that really turn people off. In my experience these fall into 4 groups:

  • People feel unfairly rewarded because we haven’t taken the money issue off the table
  • IT & Systems that don’t deliver value, IT is supposed to make life easier, not become a pain in the ass. Ineffective IT must be eliminated
  • Company policies and procedures that are unnecessarily burdensome; exist for no meaningful purpose; or submerge creative people in a ocean of admin.
  • Culture that focusses on mistakes and weaknesses rather than strengths and achievements

2014 has to be the year that all this changes, and we really do put our people first.

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