By Allen White
Employers can pay for an employee’s time. They can pay for an employee’s output. But, employers can’t pay for an employee’s best. The carrot and stick incentives of the last century no longer apply in the current workplace. According to Pink, extrinsic motivation and incentives have actually proven to be disincentives in many cases. So, how do you get the best out of people?
Pink focuses on three areas: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Employees who are given control over their own projects and even the ability to create projects on their own are by far more productive and more engaged than employees who are given monetary incentives. The more employers attempt to control their employees, the less productive they become. The more autonomy given to employees, the more engaged and productive they become.
Money does matter, but it’s not an adequate incentive for engagement. The role of money is simply that employers should pay their employees well enough that they don’t have money worries. But, beyond that, in knowledge work, money proves to be a disincentive. Given the ability to improve their skills or make a significant contribution to the world, employees can more easily reach “flow” in their work. Work becomes more like play. Time passes without notice. Employees are fully involved in their work.
Many innovative employers like Google offer “20 percent time” to their workers. This is an opportunity for employees to work on whatever project they choose while on the clock. Gmail was created by a Google employee during 20 percent time.
Goal setting and performance reviews can be motivating or demotivating depending on how they are proposed. An extrinsic set of goals is rarely achieved with a smile on the employees face. Intrinsic goals, however, are far more easily achieved. In fact, engaged employees will set goals for themselves even if the boss isn’t looking over their shoulder.
Pink offers a whole new take on human motivation. Employees are not Pavlov’s dog waiting for the bell to ring. Human beings have a higher purpose that each is uniquely designed to fulfill. The sooner that employers can identify and engage the activities that their employers will jump out of bed for, the sooner employers will find the key to not only productivity, but also creativity.
This book is especially significant to non-profits and volunteer organizations that depend on unpaid workers. How do you keep volunteers from becoming weary in well-doing? Pink’s findings are key to getting the best out of people.
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