20 Jan Seeing the fruits of our labour
These days, people are motivated by more than just money at work. ‘Self determination theory’ proposes that people are motivated by the need for 3 things: autonomy, competence and relatedness. And the latest US ‘best places to work study’ explores some specific aspects of these 3 overall drives, which seem to have the biggest impacts on employee happiness: growth opportunities, workplace environment, sense of community, satisfaction with job role, and relationship with management and the company CEO.
I agree with all the above. And I would add one more to the list – the sense that the work you’re doing is having an impact, which is a key aspect of our need for ‘competence’.
It’s a widely known concept, but I was reminded of it by behavioural economist Dan Ariely’s TED talk ‘What makes us feel good at work’, where he proposes that a key motivator is having ‘the fruits of our labour’ recognised. He shares a series of experiments and real life examples of how peoples engagement levels can been impacted based on how the output or product of their labour is treated.
One example really stuck with me. It was an experiment where groups were tasked with finding letter pairings on a sheet of paper for a decreasing amount of money each time. There were three test groups: the first group wrote their name on the sheet of paper and when they finished the assessor scanned the sheet top to bottom, the second group had an assessor take their paper and put it on a pile without looking at it, and the third group had an assessor who took their paper and without looking shredded it in front of their eyes. Unsurprisingly, the first group completed more sheets even when the pay rate dropped, whereas the shredded group did not work beyond the initial pay amount. The scary part, is the the second group who had their work ignored, were almost the same as the ‘shredding’ group. Ignoring people’s work is almost equivalent of shredding it in front of their eyes.
In organisations it’s direct managers that can have the biggest impact in this area, with the way they treat the work output of their team members. No matter how busy they are, managers need to take the time to acknowledge work completed by their team members and visibly give that work attention. If business priorities change and a project gets cancelled or delayed, rather than just directing the team to a new focus managers could find ways to share and recognise the work they’ve done whether presenting it to the team or sharing it with another area of the business to assist with something they’re working on. And managers could find and share stories and metrics that demonstrate the impact of a staff member’s work on the end customer, generating pride in the outcomes they’re creating.
However we do it, as managers, we need to make sure that staff see the results of their work and that they go home feeling the hours they spend are making some difference in the real world.