Social Awareness

Where’s the Motivation?

What’s really getting in the way of work performance and motivation? Are your employees able but not willing? Or are they willing but not able?

Engagement. This management buzzword refers to an employee’s willingness to do things such as come in early and stay behind doing work for the company. When companies measure engagement, they want to determine employee’s level of commitment to the job/company. So they look at the levels of performance and motivation.

While measuring levels of engagement can help predict turnover, absenteeism and other elements affecting productivity, it does not give an indication of the root cause of the problem. This is mainly because lack of engagement is merely a symptom. So, knowing the degree of disengagement will neither pinpoint where the problem lies nor lead to its solution.

How to deal with lack of motivation at work

To get to the root of employee disengagement and determine how to address it, there are three things we will want to consider:

1) Are employees are able to engage meaningfully, effectively, and efficiently. If not, why?

2) Is there something about the interactions, structures and processes of the company that is stopping them and causing frustration?

3) How can their work become more meaningful at an individual level?

Using Company Purpose and Values

A good starting point are the company values. The values contained in the company’s vision and mission, form a part of the corporate identity which the company would like employees to embrace. That is the Why, What and How of the company. As noted by Simon Sinek the why of a company provides the sense of purpose with which everyone is expected to work in the pursuit of a common goal. In fact, it is not uncommon for employees seek to work at a company because they identify with and are inspired by the values in the vision and mission statement. Sadly, it’s also not uncommon that once they get there, the workplace culture does not fit the company’s values claims.

Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but we will not create engagement or a positive workplace culture by simply pasting the company’s values on the wall or inserting them in a new policy. What we really want is for employees to identify with the values and culture at a personal level and to feel a sense of purpose in the work they do.

Effectively Communicating the Purpose and Values

A company will often communicate their values through their marketing campaigns, policies, and procedures. However, it is often the case that on a regular basis, workplace interactions actually reinforce opposite values within the company. When this happens, everyone feels somewhat betrayed.

For example, a company may believe in the power of strong connections and open communication. These values are spoken about frequently in their advertising as well as team meetings. But if the manager always has the door to their office shut, takes a long time to reply to e-mails, and often fails to share relevant information, these seemingly small actions send a very different message to everyone in the office about the real value the company places on communication. Eventually, discrepancies between promoted and perceived values, such as these, erode employee engagement.

A word on Identity and Branding

People are a vital component of our corporate identity. They re-present the company and have the power to influence how others perceive it. But if we want our employees to genuinely represent our company, giving them a uniform just won’t cut it.

Each individual brings a unique set of strengths and abilities to the table as a contribution to their work and to the company’s corporate identity. These strengths and abilities, along with the quality of interactions, are also the key to their engagement.

We must hire employees with the soft skills and self-awareness (EQ) required to run our business. Alternatively, we can provide existing employees with training in these areas. Individuals must be able to identify their values, unique strengths, and potential. They must learn how to balance and use these assets. And have opportunities to set their goals, in line with the strategic goals of the company. Only then can we expect to see engaged, enthusiastic and innovative employees.

Previously published as: The Value of Uniqueness in Corporate Culture
Image: Jordan Whitfield