Can You Create a Magical Workplace Culture?
An interview with Richard Ryan.
Posted Nov 07, 2017
Do you wish that you could change the culture of your organization? Wave a magic wand to transform the bored looks, cynicism, and paper shuffling with contagious enthusiasm, creativity, and commitment? Over 80 percent of leaders report that having a culture of motivated employees is the top factor for a successful company. But what does it really take to create a culture of motivated, high-performing employees?
“Over the last decade most organizations have discovered the limitations of trying to motivate people from the outside,” said Professor Richard Ryan, one of the world’s leading researchers and authors on motivation, when I interviewed him recently. “Today the question I see most organizations grappling with is how to provide workplace conditions that amplify the inherent excitement and interest people have in wanting to do a job well.”
Of course people want to be fairly paid for the work they’re doing, but Rich and his colleagues have found that money can backfire when it comes to motivating people’s behaviour if they feel that it’s the only way you’re recognizing their skills and energies, or you’re offering these as a way to control their work effort. Rich cautioned that if your workplace is only focusing on external motivating factors, the chances are that over time your people are becoming less and less inspired to put in.
Instead, Rich suggests that if you want your people to really get on board with what you’re trying to achieve, they need to feel like they're a part of what's going on in the organization and are contributing towards these goals. In fact, research has found successful organizations around the globe with ‘magical’ cultures where employees are highly engaged and see their workplace as an outstanding place to work and understand that the best motivators come from within. You see, any career can provide much more satisfaction than what a paycheck gives. It also delivers opportunities to use and develop competencies and talents, gain a sense of personal satisfaction and fulfillment, connect and belong with others, and the means to make a contribution to a greater good.
How do you increase people’s intrinsic levels of motivation?
Rich and his colleagues have found that we all have three inherent psychological needs: to feel authentic by choosing to do things that align with values and interests; to be competent through learning and mastering new skills, and to belong. When you feel you belong you feel that you’re valued and matter to your organization, and you’re connecting with others in your team or across the organization.
“Most modern workers want to feel effective in their jobs, to feel a sense of mastery and investment in the company,” explained Richard. “Management's about uncapping that tremendous energy that employees have and helping them put it to good use.”
For example, studies have found that when our needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness are met at work it can enhance people’s engagement with work, improve job performance, and promote greater psychological wellness and lesser ill-being at work.
So how can you uncap your people’s motivation?
Rich and his colleagues suggest three ways you can increase the levels of motivation and engagement of your team to foster a magic culture:
- Encourage authenticity - Consider how you can support your team members to design their tasks so they can really put their energies into their assignments. Discuss the goals and mission of your team, in a way that gives a sense of ownership and provides a rationale for what you’re doing. Ask open questions that encourage discussion of the purpose of the activity, perceived problems, and possible solutions. Then use active listening to understand it from their perspective. What does the task or your demands mean to them? How can you work together to find ways to remove obstacles? Think of this as an exercise in really trying to listen to the needs and hopes of your employees.
- Foster competence – Assist your people to gain mastery and confidence in their jobs by providing sincere and positive feedback that acknowledges their contributions. Give specific examples and whenever possible recognize initiatives or the unique impact they have in the organization. And by working with them to design solutions for setbacks or challenges, you can assist them to accomplish tasks, feel confident, and further develop their competence.
- Build belonging – Don’t assume that when you throw people together that they’ll automatically connect. Real connection comes when you provide opportunities for your team members to help each other out, so they feel an interconnection and interdependence between each other. Find ways to foster the sharing of skills, knowledge and practical support between team members.
What can you do to increase the authenticity, competence, and sense of belonging in your workplace?