We recently discovered this RSA Animate video adapted from a talk given by Dan Pink at the RSA. In it, Pink discusses the three most important factors for motivating employees in the workplace. Interestingly, money is not one of them. Pink explains that a monetary incentive program can actually be counterproductive in a variety of work settings. Rather than being compensated more abundantly for their work, employees prefer three things: autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose.
Autonomy – Studies have found that the desire to be self-directed is one of the most motivating factors in the workplace. Encouraging employee initiative by allowing workers to have autonomy over how they spend their time and complete their tasks is extremely important for motivation.
Mastery – The same studies found that people have an intense desire to develop new skills and become better at the skills they already have. Achieving an expert ability in some aspect of their job is quite motivating for the majority of people.
Purpose – Perhaps most important of all for employees is having a sense that what they’re doing matters, either in the grand scheme or within their own lives, and ideally both.
So how can you help your employees feel more autonomous, become masters, and have a sense of purpose, thus improving initiative in the workplace? Start by following these three tips:
- Look for opportunities to lean toward a self-directed rather than a straight management style.
Giving employees the opportunity to direct their own time and efforts can greatly improve their productivity and engagement.
Consider Dan Pink’s example from the video. He discusses a company called Atlassian where, once a quarter, employees are given a period of 24 hours to have completely free reign over their time and projects. They’re told to do whatever they want with whomever they want on the condition that they must present their work at the end of the three days in a companywide party. As a result, Atlassian has developed countless software fixes, new product ideas, and better ways of running their business as a result of these completely unstructured workdays.
- Find ways to help employees develop the skills they value and enjoy most.
If you can give an employee the opportunity to develop a talent or skill in the workplace, they will become more engaged and have a better time doing their work. It should be easy to find at least one skill that an employee can develop to further both themselves and their career. If that isn’t the case, the problem may be that this employee is in the wrong position.
- Establish a clear company purpose.
Not all employees will be able to get behind the same goals and purposes. Make sure when you hire new people that you are able to clearly express the purpose and drive of your business. Look for talent who share your goals and motivations, and strive to create a work environment where people are keenly aware of the company’s purpose and their role within that larger goal.