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. [http://bit.ly/1Lk0xSm]

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. http://www.kenblanchard.com/Solutions/Situational-Leadership-Development/Situational-Leadership-II

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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