Motivation and commitment – is it important?
Karsten Bundgaard | Partner | Motivation Factor Institute | Copenhagen | Denmark
We’ve talked about motivation and commitment for decades. Is there any point? Is it important? Yes! There’s a point, and it is definitely more important than ever.
Over the past 250 years, the business environment has undergone huge change. Yes! Business has indeed evolved more over the past 100 years than in the past 1000 years. From the development of industrialization in the late 18th century to modern communication and technology today this evolution has brought great changes and improvements for the business, employees and management. But industrialization has also led to increased competition – particularly price competition, which has led to cost reduction, efficiency focus, outsourcing and workflow automation.
The commodity concept – that a product is standardized, offered by several at almost the same price – is more and more a reality in all product categories. Take for example a laptop computer. Unless we are talking about a specialty brand like Apple, most of us are completely indifferent to what brand our Laptop is. Even as high-tech and advanced a product as a personal computer, which just a few years ago was shrouded in the mystery of specialized terminology and expertise, is now a commodity. Manufacturers are struggling to get their costs all the way down on the way to being able to make money on a top-quality product, where the retail price is largely determined in advance.
Costs must come down and anything goes. Production is automated and moved to countries where wages are lowest possible. The packaging is minimized and the quality is lowered, so that the goods offered barely honor the client’s expectations, while subcontractors are pushed below the pain threshold.
We – in the Western world – live in a reality where there will never again be a shortage of goods. Supply, in other words, will always be greater than the demand, and according to the theory, the price will simply continue to decrease and costs will continue to be under pressure.
In a world of work and life where constant innovation is a “must”, the desire for creative, innovative and independently thinking people is greater than ever. The product or service that we will make a living producing and selling in five years, we cannot possibly imagine today. The products we have today must constantly be adapted to market demand and combined in new ways to keep them as attractive as possible to the market throughout their life cycle.
Employee capacity for innovation and creativity is closely linked to motivation and commitment. If the employee is drained of energy, threatened in terms of his or her needs or finds his or her strengths are not in play, there is a reduced ability to innovate. You could say that motivated and committed employees are not necessarily creative staff – but unmotivated and uncommitted staff are not likely to be creative and innovative employees.
Is it a mystery as to how to increase motivation, engagement, and thus the effectiveness, creativity and ability to innovate? Large workforce research groups like Gallup and Modern Survey regularly take the temperature of the commitment and engagement level of the U.S. business community, each time producing the same result. About 65% of the American workforce – that is, two out of three – is either: disinterested, or worse, actively disengaged. Actively disengaged employees can be especially damaging to the organization . In the worst cases, they are those who spread negative messages and pull colleagues down into hopelessness. It does not take much to imagination what effect the actively disengaged employee has on efficiency – at all levels: individual, the team and the company.
Gallup has drawn a parallel between an individual’s level of engagement and satisfaction with management. Following a set of questions designed to uncover commitment level, Gallup asked employees if they would like to fire their boss if the opportunity presented itself. The result gives food for thought. 24% of the workforce would be happy to fire their boss if the opportunity presented itself. But even more interesting is that the more committed the individual is in his work, the less desire there is to part with the boss. Only 6% of the most engaged want a new boss, while as many as 51% of the unengaged would like to see the boss pack his things in a small cardboard box and leave the building. Whether it is the dedicated employees who happen to have good managers, or it is the good bosses who attract dedicated employees – the reports say nothing about. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
And while we may have thought that motivation and deep purpose in our working life was something achieved only by sitting with closed eyes, cross-legged in a circle, Gallup continues to provide one analysis after another which removes even the most stubborn of doubts about whether these qualities are important or not. Gallup concludes that reduced motivation and commitment results in reduced efficiency and has calculated the annual consequential loss in productivity is around 400 billion USD.
Figures from Europe suggest that the pattern is the same there and, since the gross domestic product in Europe and the U.S. are almost the same size (respectively 13.000 billion and 15.000 billion USD), it must be assumed that the annual consequential loss in productivity is much the same.
We claim that managerial, professional and strategic efforts to increase motivation and commitment levels in business is the best investment that can be made to reduce the cost increase efficiency and thus competitiveness. Most all of us would indeed agree with this statement, yet the strategic and practical development of motivation is not a discipline offered in business colleges, universities or management training.