What the current command and control management dogma gets completely wrong is that engagement, motivation, empowerment are not verbs but nouns. Let me explain. If we say we need to engage, to empower, to motivate employees, these are verbs. We treat these as inputs or processes and worst of all they’re typically DONE TO people. Instead (and we seem to have forgotten everything Herzberg and others taught us many years ago on this topic), people feel engaged, empowered and motivated (nouns) as outcomes of things we do WITH them. Alfie Kohn in his book ‘Punished by rewards’ clearly shows all the research and evidence that in fact you cannot and don’t motivate people.
But then the question arises what do you do to gain employee engagement. Many of the approaches HR management promotes as "best practice" are in fact things we do to treat symptoms. Better communication? An old nut that keeps haunting organisations in employee surveys and still not fixed. Training? Yes ok but what if the design of the work is all wrong. Reward? Back to the motivation issue, money doesn’t motivate people. Performance management? This assumes the problem lies with the people doing the job not the work itself. A week or two doing what employees want to do? Their normal work piles up and they feel worse as a result because the root problem is still there. Better or authentic leadership? Might work but a problem if all that happens is they do more of the same things hoping for a different result, e.g. tweaking appraisal processes! How then do you really find out what are the root causes for this problem?
Here’s the thing, from my extensive experience helping organisations to transform their service, the actual problem lies in the way the work that people do actually works, it’s the system not the employee (read what W. Edwards Deming had to say on that topic). Ok, so once you know that 95% of what determines organisational performance is due to the system (the way the work works) and less than 5% is due to the individual employee, the next question is by what method do you change the work?
We’ve worked with many organisations and through the use of a systems thinking method developed by John Seddon of Vanguard Consulting, service has improved beyond recognition, costs reduce and employee motivation is incredibly high! Want to know more? Click here: http://www.systemsthinking.co.uk/home.asp or here http://www.vanguardscotland.co.uk/
It’s important to realise that motivation is not something that we "do" to people, instead look for the things that are causing the workforce to be demotivated, then stop doing them!