Play, Purpose and Potential in Work: 3 Motivations That Make or Break Performance
Employees often have six reasons why they work, although not all are equal motivators. In fact, three of them — play, purpose and potential in work — have a much more positive impact on motivation than their counterparts of emotion, economics and inertia. The latter, while strong driving forces, do not result in nearly the healthy work culture as the former three. For this reason, an organization benefits from supporting play, purpose and potential in work as a part of their company culture, creating a sense of total motivation to get the best performance possible out of employees.
It is common to see stand-out companies such as Southwest Airlines and Apple integrating these three into their plans for stimulating total motivation amongst their workforces and the results have led them to maintain positions at the top of their respective industries. Here is a breakdown of play, purpose and potential in work and how you can get the most out of each of them.
The word play may conjure up images of game rooms and staff outings, but that’s not quite what it means here. While there are certainly companies out there such as Google that integrate these types of things into their work culture, they are considered a reward or perk. Play in work means it is actually part of the position, bringing a sense of curiosity and experimentation into the very role an individual takes on within the organization. As a result, employees enjoy what they do. This is an easy aspect to identify as employees are oozing fun and seem to take pleasure in their job. If you have ever taken a flight with Southwest Airlines, you have likely seen it first hand as the flight attendants take a personal interest in those around them, striking up clever conversations and exchanging jokes. Or, as is common throughout the flight, announcements are relayed over the intercom in the form of a lighthearted song. Not only do the employees take enjoyment from their ability to interact in creative ways, but it often elicits positive reactions from the guests, increasing everyone’s overall satisfaction with the experience.
Feeling as though one has a purpose that can be fulfilled by the job they take on with a company is intrinsic to motivating them to perform at his or her highest levels. This does not mean they believe the day-to-day work itself is the purpose, but rather, that the outcome of that hard work correlates to something the individual feels strongly about. For instance, Cochlear, a company that addresses the needs of those who have experienced hearing loss, boasts passionate employees in no small part due to the knowledge that the work provided leads to hearing for many of their clients. Realizing a small child can hear his or her parents’ voices for the first time can have a huge impact on believing one is fulfilling a purpose of great importance. When using purpose as a driver for performance, however, be sure it is one that is authentic. An obviously contrived purpose tends to have the opposite effect on performance levels.
While the first two motivators of play and purpose are considered ïdirectï due to their immediate connection to the performance, that is not the case with potential. This motivator is considered ïindirectï since it is further removed from the job being done. Potential refers to an outcome that occurs down the road and is beneficial specifically to the employee. This is best seen as a motivator in roles that are touted as stepping stones, allowing the individual to provide a service, which then leads them a step closer to a goal they are wishing to meet as part of their own life plan. For instance, a design student may work extra hard in an internship with a publishing company knowing it may eventually lead to his or her dream job of becoming a creative director. High performance in the current position can lead to a preferred outcome. Since this is not as powerful of a motivator as the other two, combining play, purpose and potential in work is more beneficial than focusing on this one alone.
Create the ultimate motivation for your employees by engaging in the triple threat: Find a way to integrate play, purpose and potential in work environments. These will likely vary from position to position so you may need to tweak them based on the outcome you are seeking. However, if you take time to decipher what fits into those realms based on individual needs, you will receive a higher performance from your staff and the payoff will be worth it in the long run.