A survey of senior leaders revealed a disconnect between what leaders think motivates employees vs. what actually motivates them. 95% of the leaders in the survey felt that “supporting progress” was the least most important factor in employee engagement, whereas all the research suggests the opposite is true: Supporting progress at work is one of the most important things a leader can do to motivate employees. (This is why many white collar workers who shift over to blue collar jobs report being much happier in their new jobs. As they often remark, “You can actually see what you’ve accomplished at the end of the work day – it’s tangible.”)
Through extensive studies, researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have found that a sense of progress at work has an enormous bearing on employees’ happiness and engagement levels. Their research found that 76% of the time that employees report being in their best moods were on days when they made progress in their jobs, whereas their worst days were the mirror image. The researchers could find no other contrasting factors that influenced moods and happiness levels as strongly as the level of progress.
So how can your organization support a greater sense of progress? There are several ways:mapping out career paths for employees, offering training opportunities, coaching programs, removing obstacles that prevent employees from making progress, and of course, timely feedback and praise is critical (helpful hint: a once a year performance review doesn’t cut it and can actually backfire on you).
Patrick Lencioni, author of The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, suggests that one of the three signs of miserableness is indeed the inability to measure your performance, and suggests that, as difficult as this may be in some jobs, the more you can figure out a way of measuring everything you do, the happier and more engaged you’ll be. Researchers Richard Hackman and Gregory Oldman also found that the most effective form of feedback is to receive feedback from the work itself: gardeners get feedback from the garden itself; computer programmers get immediate feedback when debugging computer programs; comedians get immediate feedback from their audiences.
So, the question of the week is this: Does your job measure up as best as it can?
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