Energising your workforce – How to create a high performance environment

Every day we see people with high competence who fail to deliver simply because they aren’t energised to do so. Whether it’s the Barrista at the local coffee shop, the cashier at the supermarket or the engineer who has come to fix the heating, we all have regular, and often daily, negative experiences caused by people who “can’t be bothered”. Often it is not the tools of the job, or a lacking of training at the heart of the problem. It is simply that they don’t care enough.

That lack of care shines through in everything they do. From their general demeanour to the quality of the job they do. If you are lucky they begrudgingly do the bare minimum. Interacting with them as a customer or a colleague is just plain hard work as they sap your energy with their projected negativity.

Sometimes we put our experience down to “bad attitude” but the truth is it is more likely an issue of motivation. And that’s much harder to fix than teaching someone to make a decent cappuccino or operate a till.

Lack of motivation manifests itself in everything from poor customer service to quality and lack of innovation. Sometimes it can be a subconscious “just can’t be bothered” issue. Other times it can be a more worrying and very conscious withdrawal of effort. Neither is a natural bedfellow of high performance.

Every one of us goes to work for a mixture of reasons. If our needs aren’t met we will inevitably become dissatisfied. As a result our energy levels drop and we take just that little bit less care over what we do. The longer this goes on the more our level of effort erodes.

Finally we reach the point of “going through the motions” – or even giving up all together. In the process of this downward spiral we damage relationships and lose the trust of everyone we come into contact with. Not just the boss but colleagues, clients and customers too.

The trouble is that even though they are clearly not happy, many of these demotivated individuals won’t move on. The problem intensifies in situations where weak management allows poor behaviour to go unchallenged.

The “nightmare scenario” is that the balance of these negative people outweighs those who are energised. That’s when the organisation as a whole takes on a whole new personality as it slides into decay.

There are lots of ingredients in a solution not least in ensuring that the recruitment process looks at more than skills and experience. Too often interviewers get lured by the promise of high technical competence and ignore all the other factors that go into a successful hire – like cultural fit, preferences and behaviours.

Do we think hard enough – and probe – what the individual is really looking for? Do we understand, and are we sure we can deliver, the challenge, stimulation and working environment they will need to be motivated? We suspect the answer is too often a resounding “no”. And thus a potentially unhappy employment relationship is formed.

Given that we already know an awful lot about what motivates people at work why is it we don’t always apply that to the way we operate? From the design of jobs and offices to the way we reward and recognise people we consistently miss the chance to maximise the opportunity to motivate our workforce.

Our motivation model was developed as part of our “Riding the Career Carousel” research. Based on the answers of over 1,000 UK workers it sought to explore the primary drivers of career satisfaction.

The research, based on a forced choice questionnaire, asked respondents to rank what mattered most to them at work. The answers resulted in our identifying that most workers are primarily energised by one of five factors.

Career Carousel Model

Which factor dominates at any point in time appears to be driven by a whole range of variables that are often unconnected with work. These range from age and gender to family responsibilities, recreational activities and relationships. Employers largely can’t control these variables – they have instead to create environments that respond to them.

How can you do that? By taking a closer look at each motivation type you can begin to piece together a framework of requirements that come together to define the essence of a high performance working environment.

In our latest Insight paper we explore these motivation types in more detail and look at the key steps to energising each type. We hope that it will stimulate debate and enable leaders and HR professionals to take steps that will help create environments that have the maximum potential to motivate their teams. You can get hold of a free copy of our paper here.  To receive a copy of other Insight papers in the series click here.

Mike Burgneay
Managing Director

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