Friday, November 21, 2008

How savvy organizations motivate and inspire

Earlier this week I have talked about how to create an atmosphere of innovation, and longer ago how it is important to never stop learning.

In that post I talked about creating an atmosphere where informed risk taking is encouraged, and employees are not punished for mistakes they make when taking informed risks. This article further strengthens my point.

Dr. Gary Latham of the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto encourages employees to make errors. "The research coming out of organizational psychology says that if you want risk-taking and you want people to be excited and energized about trying new things, such as embracing change, they've got to feel comfortable that they can make mistakes and learn from them." When it comes to motivation, Dr. Latham says people want just three things: "They want a sense of challenge, they want to grow, and they want to feel valued and appreciated."

Three key take-aways in that quote are:
  1. Employees want a sense of challenge
  2. They want the ability to grow their career
  3. To be valued and appreciated.
Number 1 is a leadership challenge. Well, everything could be distilled into a leadership challenge, but for the sake of argument leadership will be confined to an employees immediate manager. With number 1, a manager or leader needs to assign projects and tasks that are challenging, both technically, and by business domain. Of course not every single project in the world is interesting and challenging, but trying to mix it up for your team can be very beneficial with regards to productivity and morale.

Number 2 is an organizational challenge, sure there are aspects of leadership in this, as in the leader needs to understand how the employee wishes to grow their career, and giving him the tasks or challenges to accomplish that. But, at the end of the day, no matter how much a leader may want to advance the employees career, where the advancement means moving up the org chart, this may not be possible in every company do to existing issues, or lack of growth in the company.

Number 3 is clearly a leadership issue, yes, pay and benefits have something to do with this but where the rubber meets the road it's all about leadership. Thanking your employee for their hard work, or them going out of the way to finish a task, or recommend an improvement. At Macadamian our employees are our IP. We make a conscious effort to ensure that our employees feel looked after, both at an organizational level and at the manager level. A simple "Thank you, we couldn't have done it without you" can be a powerful statement on how you value your employees. Of course, it has to be sincere.

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