14 March 2012
Motivation: what’s in it for me?
Money doesn't rule the world when it comes to motivating your team says lean guru, Dennis McCarthy.
In WM's January issue (p10), I drew a parallel between medical practitioners' historic reliance on blood-letting and management's reliance on monetary motivators. Blood-letting continued long after evidence showed it was only effective in a few cases. Likewise, the popularity of money as a motivator defies research which shows that, at best, it's only as effective as non-monetary motivators – and yet is the most expensive.
One reason is that the default management mindset treats people as cogs in the machine. From here, they conclude the only thing that motivates people at work is pay. It's a myth that shows no signs of losing its appeal.
Money does motivate, but it's a secondary motivator which works either by funding leisure pursuits or as a measure of achievement/respect in society. When motivating people with money, you are really saying 'if you do well we'll give you some money so that you have the chance to do something more interesting/valued'.
An alternative is engagement. Engagement provides a direct motivational lever to raise energy, commitment and confidence to act. What's more, a recent government-funded report, 'Engaging for success: Enhancing performance through employee engagement', shows that high levels of engagement can deliver 25% more profitability.
Engagement is a product of positive working relationships. The most effective way to improve working relationships is to involve people in improvement teams – numbering five to seven people – in parallel with their normal duties for at least 5% of their time. This will pay back the investment four to eight times over if the following conditions for engagement are met. These are: a purpose to believe in; processes to reinforce good behaviours and challenge limiting behaviours; help for people to adapt through involvement; and consistent role models. People model their behaviour on significant others, so the senior management team process should also satisfy these four conditions.
So, in summary, money is a motivator if you want to motivate people to pursue their interests outside of work. Other motivators cost less and have a direct impact on performance, but require managers to work well as a team to deliver a purpose they believe in.
Not too much to ask is it?
Dennis McCarthy, director at DAK Consulting
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