Originally published on the Vistage Research Center
While it can be easy to focus on pay and perks or goal-setting sessions to motivate employees, driving people toward doing their best work requires something much deeper. For employees to find a real sense of passion and purpose, they need to be doing work that’s personally meaningful to them.
The question is: How do you help them find meaning?
While you can’t actively create meaning, you can nurture it. Here are three strategies we recommend to better understand what motivates employees and drives meaning across an organization.
1. Seek clarity. Leadership might be aware of a specific issue or problem area, but that doesn’t necessarily mean executives know what to do about it. In these instances, it’s important to seek clarity from employees. How? Ask for it!
For example, if certain employees don’t feel that they are receiving adequate training, it’s important to continue asking questions to get to the root of the problem. Asking specific follow-up questions like “what type of training opportunities would you like to see?” encourages deeper understanding and provides the opportunity to develop new solutions.
For example, Arbor Homes, Indiana’s largest homebuilder, faced this exact challenge when their sales team reported low professional development and training responses. After following up with this particular group, they discovered that the company had implemented new sales systems that were supposed to increase the team’s efficiency and improve some of the out-of-date, time-intensive processes. However, the sales staff didn’t understand how to use the new systems, and instead of saving time, it was costing them more. Armed with this knowledge, the executive team provided training for the new technology, and the sales staff scores improved.
By drilling down to a specific group of employees, with a specific question that directly addresses their concern, you can easily identify exactly what needs to change.
2. Practice radical candor. Created by former Googler, Kim Scott, radical candor is described as a simple tool leaders can use to ensure team members are consistently getting the feedback, guidance, and support they need to do their best work. At its core, radical candor involves regularly providing candid, constructive guidance with the goal of creating a company culture that’s viewed as being safe, open, and honest. Without this culture of vulnerability, it can be difficult to help employees find true passion and purpose at work.
3. Allow greater autonomy. In Emplify’s recent employee engagement trends report, we found that this might be an issue for companies that employ primarily desk-bound knowledge workers. The more hands-on management model in these office settings can make it difficult for employees to feel a sense of autonomy and job ownership.
Allowing employees greater autonomy to do their best work will gives them the freedom to inject projects with personal meaning.
While there are numerous ways to motivate employees, there’s a reason we’re drawn to these three specific methods. They give each employee a reason to feel invested in the work they do—one that’s personally meaningful and long-lasting.