Excerpt From The Culture Question:
If they are to find their work meaningful, a good portion of a person’s job should be congruent with the ways in which they think and act. Employees in client services positions should find gratification in helping people. Employees in data management should likewise find pleasure in the accuracy and orderliness required for their jobs. When a new employee’s friends can say, “That job sounds like a natural fit for you,” they are more likely to find the job meaningful.
The best way for leaders to help employees be successful at work is to find out how they think, why they act in certain ways, and what makes them happy or unhappy, and then help them recognize these traits in themselves. It’s important to note that it is rarely possible to find a job in which every aspect of work is meaningful, but it is possible for nearly every job to have some elements that are.
As leaders, we must go beyond external motivators to encourage our employees to take ownership of their work. Our first step is to identify what motivates them. What do they find pleasure in doing? What sort of work is agreeable to them? Our aim should be to fan the flame of each employee’s own motivation.
As leaders, we must go beyond external motivators to encourage our employees to take ownership of their work.
In addition to aligning with the purpose of the organization, if employees are to find their work personally meaningful, their actual tasks need to be gratifying in and of themselves. It’s important to note that the goal is to find a good fit between the organization’s needs and the employee’s preferences – not simply to let everybody do whatever they want to do.
We recently asked a relatively new employee how she was feeling about her job. She replied: “I love it. I had never considered doing anything like this before, but my friends tell me it makes sense that I would like it.” This was incredible validation for our hiring process. She began working on a variety of projects, which included structuring data management processes. In her new role, she was able to use her skills and tap into the kind of orderly thinking she was naturally good at. This ultimately fueled her satisfaction and brought her happiness at work.
This example demonstrates that we should be asking our staff what they find enjoyable and gratifying. When we give our employees tasks that they find rewarding, we allow them to tap into their intrinsic motivation. As a result, we don’t have to use rewards or punishments to motivate and engage people.
Once a new employee has been working for a while, ensure that you continue to give them work that brings them satisfaction. This doesn’t have to be a mysterious or particularly intuitive process. Instead, you can ask fairly specific and direct questions like these to prompt a dialogue:
“What parts of your work make you happy?”
“What daily tasks bring you satisfaction?”
“Does your work draw on your strengths? If not, how could it?”
“How do you find the balance between your more satisfying tasks and those you find unpleasant?”
When you have these conversations, listen for excitement in people’s voices. Be on the lookout for signs of increased animation in their body language, such as leaning in and smiling. If you keep probing, you just might find areas of untapped potential.
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