Dangling Carrots to a Burping Rabbit?

I was once in a process workshop that was attempting to crack “what drives employees to bring their best to the workplace?”…and like many of these workshops, this one too had its share of intellectual stimulation, followed by blank stares and animated debates over caffeinated smoke-break sessions. After 2 coffee breaks and a lunch slot, just before siesta time where one could slide into a slumber in the name of introspection, someone picked up the marker and went to the flipchart. This meant siesta was gone! In a matter of minutes we had a list of 20 plus suggestions for what each of us thought was our drive to bring our best to work.

Fresh round of coffee was brought in as we declared it was too long a list to be a meaningful answer.

The Top 4 Drivers

We spent the next few hours making clusters of similar sounding and seemingly connected factors and Voila! we had 4 themes that emerged on the board. It looked something like this…

Four motivators to performance

Based on the number of items in the clusters, the 4 factors lined up as Appreciation & Acknowledgment, Monetary Rewards & Remuneration, Intimidation and Self-esteem. While we declared that this order of stating the 4 had no particular relevance, we agreed it was easy to remember them this way. 🙂  What’s better than having a non-monetary factor as the top most driver for performance! Ka-ching!! You are in-line if you are getting visuals of your boss walking around the office floor with heavy pockets, giving out Appreciations and Acknowledging the work that someone is doing.

The Challenge

Businesses and their leadership have the constant challenge of not getting their staff to bring their entire potential to work at all times. If not 100% it is just fair to expect that the potential deployed is at least in the late 80s. We have all been or seen that ‘odd colleague’ whose engines are constantly on top-throttle. Over-producing when new in a system and revving down as the settling in and blending with the background happens. As cliched as that sounds, it cannot be denied that finding the right pace often involves a bit of slowing down. The challenge hence is to have a workplace and culture that keeps the engines on top throttle all through and all across. Easier said than done.

What drives you?

Businesses have produced and attempted many creative interventions to have an ecosystem that encourages the staff to bring their best to work. I met an IT services company once that had created a ‘virtual township’ in a non-metro location for their operations…

  • Hiring staff from other states and finding them houses within walking radius of the office.
  • Paying the rental advance and facilitating school admissions for staff relocating with kids.
  • Extended lunch break where staff could go home for 3 hours, settle the kids returning from school, attend to chores and come back to work later in the afternoon and stay late.
  • Office was open and accessible 24/7
  • Installing microlinks on rooftops of the houses to bring them under the office’s network…the staff are virtually in the office even at home.

The fact that they were servicing clients from a different timezone made this model work for them like magic and they had their numbers that showed it was working. I remember returning from this meeting starry-eyed and writing a note of appreciation to them about the ‘brilliant HR initiatives’ they had in place. Well… I think and feel contrarily different about the whole idea today.

Carrots or Sticks…?

In an ever enlarging workplace, it would be way too much to expect customized personal plans for each staff based on what drives them to bring their best to work. While identifying the primary drivers for each employee is a mammoth task by itself, keeping it constantly updated with changing priorities and personal configurations could be a bigger one. But hold… isn’t that why organizations have structures and hierarchies in place to create manageable microcosms? If not a personalized motivation plan, it would help to stay conscious of the fact that carrots and sticks don’t always work uniformly.

You sure don’t want to dangle a carrot to a burping rabbit!

Motivation quote

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