Monday, May 13, 2013

CEOs - Learn the secret to motivating employees!

As a CEO, understanding employee motivation of the new Millennial culture is a key to business success. As a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC program, I have been studying the impact of culture and new ways to work and how it impacts employee productivity and their relationship with your company. I have found two articles which effectively highlight the opportunities culture brings to an organization. 

In the article “ Employees First, Customers Second Culture: Why it Really Works in the MarketVineet Nayar, talks about how employees can be motivated. He talks about the importance of trust, which needs to be built between the employees and the management. I think one of the key ingredients in building trust is giving employees autonomy. Lets take the example of Google, the leader in innovation. Some of its best products like Orkut, Gmail and Google News were a result of the time employees were allowed to spend working on projects that were of interest to them. Autonomy lead them to produce their best work. Realistically speaking all organizations are not at the same life-stage as Google but the key is to make the employees feel like they are in control whether you are a start-up or a Giant like Google. Employees need to work on projects that they are passionate about. This practice would produce the most creative solutions.

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Dan Pink in his article "A Radical Prescription for Sales" talks about the different motivators. He talks about how financial motivators like commissions, bonuses that he refers to as the “if-then” rewards work well only for mundane tasks and not for complex. The “if you do this, you get that“ approach actually hinders creativity. If organizations want their employees to be creative they need to be motivated by more than financial motivators. Google’s employee-centric approach by giving employees all that they need at the workplace from food to gym to salon etc. reflects that they are fostering an environment where employees would want to work. The employee focused approach leads to a more satisfied work force, which is reflected in increased productivity. The lesson for organizations is that they need to focus on meeting the needs of their employees. Yes providing the facilities that Google does might not be realistic for most organizations but small steps can be taken.

From my review of these two articles and other work on employee motivation at Northwestern, there are three main action items you should consider implementing in your company.

  • Autonomy - give employees an hour a week to work on a project that interests them.
  • Training - have workshops once every month to teach employees a new skill.
  • Work place perks - offer employees perks like free laundry service on friday.
To encourage employees to take a more right-brain approach to work organizations should take these three steps. As CEOs you need to understand what motivates your employees to maximize productivity. Research has shown that financial compensation works when tasks are mundane. In this competitive environment where companies rely highly on their employees ability to think out of the box, they need to be motivated to do so. Understand your employees to better motivate them and get them to perform their best.

Ayesha Aleem is a MS. candidate in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University with an emphasis on analytics. She has previously worked as a Business and Digital Media Analyst. Follow @ayeshanovski.

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