Improved Organizational Performance through Employee Motivation (Not Skill vs Will!)

Part 1 of a 4 part blog series discussing employee motivational challenges. This is an important topic in our organizational transformation work related to Strategy to Execution.

If I had a dollar for every time someone suggests training as the solution for an HR issue, I would be a rich man. However, there is a barrier to performance which is lying below the surface. This less obvious challenge, which people rarely admit to, is around motivation. It is critical to understand how this phenomenon, which can quickly make productivity plummet, plays out so that it can be addressed.

Here are some simple questions to determine if motivation is the root cause of a performance problem:
• Could the employee do the job if they had to? (E.g.: Their life depended on it!)
• Does the employee perform the job at standard or above when they are being observed?
• Does the employee do the job well at times and poorly at other times?

If you answered yes to these questions, then your employee has the ability to do the job. However, they are not always choosing to ‘do’ the job and you are probably dealing with a motivation problem. And you are not alone! A recent national study showed that less than 1 in 4 non-management employees are fully engaged. []

Motivation is too often assumed to be solely about the employee lacking a desire to succeed (E.g.: Lacking will). Many of us were introduced to this view of motivation by Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership training program where one learns that direct reports have either a “skill” or “will” issue preventing them from performing. Situational Leadership has helped 10s and 1,000s of leaders pay more attention to the needs of the work force and, thereby, improve overall performance.

At the same time, additional approaches to employee motivation are needed. I have rarely discovered a deficiency of employee will due to a lack of desire or inclination to work hard. Very few people wake up every morning and say to themselves: “Today, I want to do a very poor job at work.” The vast majority of our workers want to do well.

Rather, if an employee is not willing to perform a task, there is often times a missing component on the part of the employer. The most common causes of employee lack of motivation are that the leader has not explained to the employee the importance of the work, has not aligned work to employee values or has not aligned the rewards being offered.

In all these cases, the quickest way to get the employee up and running again is for the leader to figure out the specific barrier(s) to motivation and address them. There is no need for the leader to dive into the complex, murky topic of the employees’ “psychological maturity” as Situational Leadership training would suggest. Rather, the leader needs to carry out the much simpler tasks of:
• Explaining the importance of the work
• Aligning employees with work which fits their values and
• Making sure that the employee is motivated by the reward system

We will explore each of these motivational issues in my upcoming blogs.

What motivational issues do you see with your workforce?

Note: The views expressed in this blog are my opinions and do not in any way reflect the views of my employer.

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Process Improvement: Let’s Understand the Basics Before Going to the Complex

Process Improvement  on Metal Gears.

Process Improvement on the Mechanism of Metal Gears.

Process improvement professionals tend to do a deep dive into the methodology immediately after an introduction.  The conversation tends to go something along the lines of “Nice to meet you as well, do you use the DMAIC approach to get at root cause?”  While this is an important question, let’s consider a few fundamental questions which may be useful to understand before we debate methodology.

A Definition of Process improvement

Process improvement is essentially an exercise in problem solving.  One is typically trying to address an organizational problem or create an opportunity.

  • A problem is some unwanted state of a person, place, thing or operation.
  • Problem solving transforms the unwanted state into a wanted state—e.g., Customers who are complaining about poor quality are satisfied with your product.
  • The process consultant typically facilitates the organization to reach goals and create transformative change.

A Process Improvement Approach

The process improvement problem solving approach is typically carried out by considering the individual presenting symptoms (indicators of an issue) and extracting the root cause(s).  You then develop solutions for the root cause(s) to help ensure that you are solving for the key issues versus symptoms…

Process Improvement Outcomes

Process improvement can have a positive impact on a number of organizational areas

  • Build a sustainable, competitive advantage globally
    • Invest in process management to deliver meaningful results
    • Common to see a 2-3 times return on investment of your resources
  • Support organizational strategy, goals, and objectives
    • Sustain growth of the enterprise: Revenue and earnings
    • Accelerate, expand and improve what you are already doing
    • Build competencies globally
  • Build a culture for growth
    • Provide a common approach to process improvement
    • Develop transferrable leadership skills at all levels
    • Enable predictable processes, innovation, and growth

So let’s consider the definition, approach and outcomes of process improvement before we get into more heady discussions.  I find that when my clients understand these baseline concepts we have a much more useful discussion re: the more advanced topics.

What additional fundamental process improvement topics do you find are useful to discuss?

Note: The views expressed in this blog are my opinions and do not in any way reflect the views of my employer.

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