Julian Birkinshaw from the excellent Unstructure blog has asked me to contribute to the discussion he has eloquently started on the role of employee motivation in the changing dynamic of today’s business environment. This in part follows on from Arne van Oosterom’s Made With Care discussion on Wenovski.
In support of his discussion of how managers might support employee Motivation, Julian leverages the same Self Determination Theory (Deci and Ryan, 1985, 2000, 2004) that has formed the basis of my own research. His coverage of the Material, Social and Personal drivers of Motivation need little further coverage as I’ve referred to them on my blog and associated discussions using Deci and Ryan’s original terms of Autonomy, Relatedness and Competence. Julian suggests that managers should utilise these three aspects of human psychological capability to help turn ‘extrinsically regulated‘ organisational objectives into ‘identified‘ personal motives of employees. In otherwords, managers should use the prospects of material, social and personal rewards to encourage employees to take ownership of organisational objectives and become more personally intrinsically rewarding. I would also supplement this with Valerand’s, (2003) definition that motivation occurs on “global, contextual and situational” levels of recursion.
As I’ve mentioned in the discussion on Wenovski a great example of an organisation doing this is Zappos, an American online retailer, that uses it’s employees to amongst other things model the clothes they sell. Specifically this example is appealing to an employee’s underlying Relatedness and Competence ‘needs’ and allowing them to fulfill those ‘needs’ on behalf of the organisation, which in turn benefits the organisation’s own Relatedness and Competence objectives, by providing customers with a familiar, down to earth and empathetic marketing touch point. Literally in this case the employee is embodying the organisation. This, if successful, and it is proving very successful for Zappos, will in the long term also enhance the organisations global Autonomy by boosting sales (the material outcome) as well as it’s social outcome (what customers think) and its personal, or personnel outcome by enhancing its relationship with its employees.
As one of the commenters on Unstructuresaid, “these are not new concepts”, but I think the difference is that re-conceptualising these as motivational constructs or regulatory mechanisms can have quite a powerful effect on the way an organisation manages them. The above diagram indicates another few ways from the literature of conceptualising both how and why to target ‘management interventions’. For example, these help determine at what stage you are energising as opposed to directing employee/customer behaviour and whether or not you are doing so to instil awareness of issues or to reaffirm employee confidence or satisfaction.
Indeed, motivation is all around us, it is the root of our every behaviour and that’s a critical point I’d like to bring to this conversation, motivation whether positive or negative (demotivation) will occur whether you want it to or not. Within your organisation, your staff and colleagues, and yourself. Deci and Ryan’s theory is an organismic one, that is, it perceives that we as humans are naturally predisposed to grow and organically adapt to our environment, seeking out new challenges, responsibilities and recognition in order to fulfil these underlying psychological needs. The question to managers is perhaps best asked, not might you support motivation, but rather how are you currently regulating motivation within your organisation? How are you directing or maintaining the energisation of the behaviour in your organisation?
A very innovative approach to this I discovered yesterday, came via the Swedish TV Licensing Authority with their Tack (Thank You) campaign. Allowing individuals who upon paying their tv licences to submit a picture of themselves and be integrated to a well highly produced and aspirational “thank you” video. Actually, anyone can have a go, which does kind of undermine the point a little, but its powerful stuff – underlining the point that for managers the best way to motivate your employees is to integrate them into the middle of the organisation and allow them to take ownership and participate in the critical issues of the organisation and become an evangelist for them.
From a Self Determination perspective at least, every employee has those Personal ‘Material, Social and Competence ‘Needs” Julian mentions, fulfilment of these results in happiness for the individual. However, because of the nested and recursive nature of self determined behaviour and societies, organisations also have ‘Material, Social and Competence‘ ‘Needs’. The obvious question for managers then is how are you facilitating the fulfilment of both of these first order (happiness) and second order ‘needs’ (success) and in doing so creating a motivated, energised and purposeful organisation? As I shared on Twitter yesterday:
“Success is getting what you want (contextual/global – extrinsic). Happiness is wanting what you get (situational – intrinsic).”