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Getting the best from your workforce

Research has shown that once employees are paid ‘enough’ to meet their needs (defined as money no longer a pressing concern) that further financial rewards will not deliver the total commitment to excellence that you desire.This is especially the case if the work demands high levels of intellectual engagement and and creativity. So if money isn’t the answer, what is?

Steve Jobs when building Apple did not attract the brightest to work for him by offering huge financial rewards. On the contrary he didn’t have any money to pay them in the early days! Rather he promised the opportunity to work on exciting ground breaking projects which had the potential to ‘transform the world’ through creating products which brought the power of computers within easy reach of average consumers. The company was driven by a passion for excellence and simplicity in all aspects of design, engineering, marketing, and even packaging.

So you could say that Jobs offered employees:

  1. Purpose  an inspiring vision of the future plus clarity and focus
  2. Challenge – demanding intellectually stimulating work, and ambitious goals
  3. Autonomy – employee freedom to be creative, organise own work and take risks
  4. Professional growth  – opportunity to enhance skills and be acknowledged as an expert
  5. Belonging – personal security from being part of a like minded team
  6. Respect – knowing that your ideas will be listened to, and solutions implemented if workable

High performance from your workforce and discretionary effort will arise from creating a work environment where the above elements are present. If there is over reliance on financial incentive schemes you are likely to be disappointed with the level of employee engagement.

Unfortunately, once you establish the right environment it requires ongoing reinvention to keep all the elements fresh. Tomorrow’s strategy will be different from today’s – there are no short cuts or once and for all fixes.

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