Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, writes:
As the nature of work changes, the factors keeping people invested in and motivated by that work are changing, too. What’s clear is that our conventional strategies for cultivating engagement may no longer work. We need to rethink our approach.
I think it’s great that forward-thinking organisations are trying to find ways to make work more fulfilling, and be part of a more holistic approach to life.
Current research suggests that extrinsic rewards (like bonuses or promotions) are great at motivating people to perform routine tasks—but are actually counterproductive when we use them to motivate creative problem-solving or innovation. That means that the value of intrinsic motivation is rising, which is why cultivating employee engagement is such an important topic right now.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that people no longer want to be paid for their work. But a paycheck alone is no longer enough to maintain engagement. As work becomes more difficult to specify and observe, managers have to ensure excellent performance via methods other than prescription, observation, and inspection. Micromanaging complex work is impossible.
Whitehurst suggests that there are three things organisations can do. I’d support all of these:
- Connect to a mission and purpose
- Reconsider your view of failure
- Cultivate a sense of ownership
However, what I think is startlingly missing from almost every vision from people 40+ is that they should be thinking about actual employee ownership — not just cultivating a ‘sense’ of it.
Don’t get me wrong, forming a co-op doesn’t automatically guarantee worker satisfaction, but it’s a whole lot more motivating when you know you’re not just working to make someone else rich.