Employees aren’t just motivated by traditional rewards and
punishments, Daniel Pink, author of Drive:
What the Science of Motivation Can Teach You About How High Performance,
told the AGS Conclave in San Francisco in a April 27 keynote speech.
He began by noting that the businesses that flourish are the
ones who “challenge orthodoxy.” But classic incentives don’t always work for
complex or creative tasks, as employees are driven by more than just a paycheck.
“Money is a motivator,” he said. “If you don’t treat people
fairly, if you don’t pay them enough, you will get the minimum effort. You have
to pay enough so they are not focused on the money but on the work.”
But other key motivators are autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Regarding autonomy, Pink noted that Zappos has won customer
service awards by giving its call center operators the ability to solve
“They are saying: We hire good people, and good people care
about what they do,” he says. “Maybe we should get out of their way.”
He said a big trend in companies today is “Fed Ex days,”
when employees are given a day to work on something they are interested in, and
then deliver the idea “overnight.”
“Say to your folks: What is the best way to improve this
company?” he added. “Then have them present their ideas to everyone. My experience with these things is the first
is wobbly, the second one rocks. I guarantee you will get some good ideas.”
Another motivator is “mastery,” what Pink called “our desire
to get better at stuff.”
But the only way that people know they are improving is through
constant feedback—which means going beyond the classic once-a-year “performance
“We have to come up with mechanisms so people know they” are
getting better, Pink said.
Finally, he said, people are motivated by seeing a purpose
to their labor.
“Sometimes we get so wrapped up in ‘how’ we do something, we
neglect the ‘why,’” he said. “People want to know that what they do matters.
They yearn for a sense of contribution and connection.”
He noted that jewelers were lucky, since “transcendence” and
“meaning” are “baked into” their products.
“You can show letters from people how your product changed
their life,” he said. “That can have profound effects on your people.”
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