Motivating people rarely works if you appeal to something that’s temporary or superficial. Dangling a reward that they perceive as minor or inconsequential will doom your attempt to spur them to excel.
A more effective motivational strategy involves connecting employees with a noble purpose. Help them see that their effort translates into a greater good—an outcome that’s truly meaningful to the larger world.
How can you tell if people are driven by a noble purpose? Ask them, “What keeps you up at night?” The most motivated employees respond by describing their overriding goal to make a life-changing impact on others.
Dirk Veldhorst is director of corporate health for AkzoNobel, a global chemical manufacturer based in Amsterdam. What keeps him awake at night?
“The health and well-being of 55,000 people around the world,” he says, referring to AkzoNobel’s employees.
For Veldhorst, he sees his role as improving the mental and physical health of his workforce. He’s passionate about supporting healthful initiatives such as offering programs to improve wellness and avoid burnout.
“Well-being is a means to an end,” he explains. “With it, you can create value for yourself and your organization. Without it, short-term productivity is less probable and long-term growth is almost impossible.”
Make it easy for your employees to develop a deep conviction that flows from an admirable purpose. Prod them to consider the larger purpose of their job and their potential to enhance others’ lives.
— Adapted from Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does, Susan Fowler, Berrett-Koehler.