Why are so many employees today disengaged from their work? I believe the modern organization, with its focus on bureaucracy rather than substance is a primary reason. Sense of purpose is a key driver of successful organizations and for people. Moreover, a clear purpose (as defined by a competitive strategy) is a critical element to defining work that matters to the organization and the employee. This is one reason why more adventurous people like to work for small entrepreneurial companies. While the risks are higher, their is more perceived opportunity to do work that matters. In most young small businesses, there tends to be little structure and few bureaucratic institutions, so action is easier to initiate.
The problem is, with little structure things can quickly degrade into chaos. So, rules are put into place, people break them, so more rules and punishments are put into place, etc. Before you know it, things aren’t so fun anymore.
Try this instead:
- Hire great people who care deeply about bringing excellence to your organization.
- Set the bar high, accept no slackers!
- Design and communicate a great strategy that everyone can understand.
- Make the intent of your initiatives clear so that employees are free to use their creativity to devise more effective ways to accomplish your objectives.
- Trust your people.
Dan Pink has a great book called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, that clearly explains how to create motivation in your team. See also, The Progress Principle, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer about how companies successfully create engagement and creativity in their teams.