Workplace motivation. The big ‘M’ word at it again. What is it and when did this curious little critter become so important in determining workforce performance and organisational success?
For 1913 American inventor and engineer Frederick Taylor, the topic was irrelevant – at least where his theory of organisational structure was concerned. An industrial revolutionist and mechanical engineer, Taylor believed the way to achieving workforce efficiency and in turn, organisational success was not through motivation inspired by employee contributions, shared vision or purpose, but governance; rules, laws and principles.
Fast forward to 2018 and the world’s a different place; one characterised by digital technology, free speech and introspection. Thanks to social, political, technological and cultural evolutions over time we’re a more aware, open-minded and empowered race – one driven by a need for self-actualisation and spiritual awakening.
Never before have mediation, mung beans and corporate interests in exploring new ways of motivating the workforce been more popular than they are in the information age. Corporations talk of ‘low hanging fruit’ and the need to ‘differentiate themselves from their competitors’. Here’s how: an inspired, intrepid and intuitive workforce; one where a desire for creativity, employee input, out-of-the-box thinking, shared leadership and values rule.
The utopia of the corporate world, it’s somewhere we all aspire to be. Gone are the days of Taylor’s austere, mechanical model of organisational structure for driving performance. That guy was way off. Move over Frederick, the 21st-century calls and with it, an evolving perspective of what constitutes a modern, productive and enlightened workplace.
Think gaming spaces (Google), trainsets, big top tents and secret spaces (Pixar), or perhaps something more understated like quirky light fixtures, water fountains or open-plan offices – spaces designed to charge the senses, evoke lateral thinking and in doing so, support achieving organisational objectives.
Historically speaking, it’s been private enterprises that have dominated the creative workspace and innovative culture stakes. Slowly but surely, we’re seeing public sector workplaces come on board, joining the evolution by developing their own creative spaces donned Innovation Hubs, XChanges and Networks; safe spaces to encourage employee contributions and inspire out-of-the-box thinking for a competitive edge and satisfied workforce.
While undeniably cool concepts, inspiring a workforce that’s motivated to give their best effort to the organisation every day is more than whether there’s a swing set in reception or bar in the kitchen. It’s also about inspiring people to give their best effort every day because something about the organisation resonates – something immaterial, intrinsic – something that aligns with our need for self-actualisation.
I was listening to a podcast recently that delved into the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ behind the All Blacks success as a rugby team. Many things were discussed including influence, mindfulness, communication, rituals and mission. But one thing, in particular, the stood out to me – somewhat of an ‘ah-ha!’ moment – the glue that bound these ideas together. It was the seemingly obvious but often overlooked idea of creating ‘value’ for others. How? Via ownership.
People need to feel connected to something in order to be motivated to succeed; by owning the challenge in the form of achieving alignment between personal and professional values, vision or end state, we’re motivated to rise the challenge. Just like the All Blacks.
At contentgroup we have a set of values: be kind, be remarkable, be curious; the bricks and mortar on which the organisation’s recruitment strategy is based. For me, I identify with each and every one of these – not because the organisation wants me to, but because they align with my own, personal values. They form part of the standard I set and hold myself accountable to on a daily basis – be it at work, personal, sporting, or an everyday stranger at the bus stop sense.
While I may not be an All Black, sharing values such as these with an organisation that I’m a part of inspires me to come to work each day – something that not only benefits me from a mental, sense of purpose perspective, but my employer from one of a productivity and client relationships stance.
So where does that leave us? For Government, I believe there’s a lot to be gleaned from taking stock of the way things have been done in the past to influence the way forward. Granted there will always be a time and place for red tape, policies and critical thinking, but don’t neglect your workforce. People need, want and aspire to feel empowered, valued and having their opinions or input heard. Where possible plant the seed for cultural change, nurture your workforce by encouraging creativity, set the challenge and watch them rise to own it.