I’m a fan of the weekly “Corner Office” Column in the New York Times. The CEOs invariably offer insightful lessons from their own experiences in management and leadership.
This week’s column featured Lynn Blodgett, president and CEO of ACS, a Xerox company. Mr. Blodgett explained the key punch machine business his mother started in their home. He and his siblings all joined in, raising the question of how to pay the kids without relying on hourly pay methods that would require verification. The solution as Mr. Blodgett explained it was quite simple:
“So they [his parents] came up with an incentive system that was essentially self-policing. I believe that a really important management principle is that if you get the incentives aligned, people will motivate themselves far better than you’ll ever motivate them. But, again, you have to get the incentives right.”
Mr. Blodgett goes to on clarify it’s not just financial incentives:
“It’s being able to feel like they have a level of control over their destiny, that they are valued in what they do, that they’re being successful, that they’re contributing. Those things are actually probably more important than the money. But you’ve got to get the money right, too.”
Regular readers of Compensation Café know I strongly advocate the position that base compensation must first be correct before employees can properly enjoy additional incentives. But there is no doubt that Mr. Blodgett is correct about the importance of employees having a sense of meaning and purpose in their work.
Mercer’s October 2011 What’s Working survey report reinforces this with their finding that these “soft” factors are much stronger influencers of motivation and engagement. As Mercer Senior Partner Colleen O’Neill explains in this SHRM article:
“Without a doubt, financial factors like pay and benefits are a vital part of the employment deal, especially in the U.S., but employers need to consider and manage the full range of factors to ensure that their workforce is engaged. When financial resources are limited, organizations can leverage these nonfinancial factors to effectively boost employee commitment and productivity.”
What are those most influential non-financial factors? As the chart below illustrates, respect, work-life balance, meaningful work, leadership and team members are the most critical – a near perfect research mirror of the real-life experience Mr. Blodgett describes at ACS.
Factors Influencing Motivation and Engagement at Work: The Americas
Mr. Blodgett expanded on his leadership style, emphasizing the importance of focusing on these areas often dismissed as “the little things”:
“Nobody is above being moved, being touched, being influenced by a small gesture. … So it’s the little things. Like writing a note that says, ‘You did a great job,’ or: ‘I’m sorry I got after you. You’re a super performer, and I lost my patience with you, and that’s my error, and forgive me for doing that.’”
Do you agree with Mr. Blodgett on the importance of the small gesture and the need for respect? Considering Mercer’s research results illustrated above, what would you rank as most important to your engagement and satisfaction at work?
As Globoforce’s Head of Strategic Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. His articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin, Montreal and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @globoforce.