Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

The Motivation Equation: How to Build a Culture of Employee Belief in an Environment of Constant Change

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

The Motivation Equation: How to Build a Culture of Employee Belief in an Environment of Constant Change

Article excerpt

It's no surprise that employees who can articulate what an organization stands for--and believe in the mantra themselves--work harder to reach both personal and business success. But, how can an organization instill pride in its employees so that they walk the walk, when people are uniquely motivated? The question becomes: are people uniquely motivated? Or, are there innate motivators organizations can emphasize to build what Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick call a "culture of belief"?

"There absolutely are," says Elton--an author, speaker and organizational culture guru who has shared his insights on MSNBC and CNN and published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and his own series of best-selling books. "And the best managers are those who can follow a simple, yet effective road map to getting their team 'all in.'"

The "all-in road map" charts the seven steps to attaining a high-performing culture, which in and of themselves are sound tips: define your burning platform, create a customer focus, develop agility, share everything, partner with your talent, root for each other and establish clear accountability. This isn't advice that would shock a seasoned manager. When all seven steps are at play, a high-performing workplace culture begins to exist.

Elton offers an equation to define high performance: E+E+E, or, engaged, enabled and energized. The three Es pave the road map, so to speak, giving a path from step to step and back again. A high-performing employee is one who can say "I believe what I do matters, and I can make a difference," explains Elton. And the key to getting there centers on managers' abilities to tap into motivators (fulfilling the seven steps), resulting in both bottom-line and reputational wins.

It's an entirely people-first philosophy, says Elton. As evidenced from a 2012 study from research firm Willis Towers Watson--which surveyed some 300,000 individuals from industries across the spectrum and informed the Elton and Gostick book All In--motivation counts because people come first, he explains.

"The research reaffirms that the human element of business was still critical, even in today's world of automation and virtual contact," says Elton, "In essence, your people drive your business."

Communication counts

The respondents tell a story of open communication and authentic recognition as motivators to perform, what Elton refers to as the flattening of an organization. "A flat organization has a direct line of sight to leadership, and that is always a positive," Elton explains. Among the first steps toward flat status: executives who walk the floor, creating opportunities to interact; all-employee town halls; more structured internal communications vehicles like newsletters or online forums; and the all-important "recognition piece," which shows that employees who receive personal recognition for their work are more motivated to perform.

"The old school way was 'no news is good news' or 'I'll tell you if you need to know'," says Elton, noting the contrast to what was found in the survey. He says employees are three times more likely to love their jobs when they have trusted relationships at work. He also cites a Harvard Business Review study from 2013 that concluded a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative comments in the workplace translates to higher performance. That same study found that culture accounts for nearly 30 percent of the differential in corporate performance when compared with "culturally unremarkable" competitors.

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Brand equity

Let's not leave out the importance of an effective brand, Elton reminds us. From a brand's esoteric elements--such as core values and customer service credos--to graphics and physical space, all help shape and influence employee trust and motivation. …

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