Leadership

Productivity shouldn't be the goal in motivating staff

If you think running a canned program to increase employee satisfaction is going to increase productivity, you might have another thing coming.

I have reason to believe that a press release I received in my inbox yesterday was personally written by Montgomery Burns.

The release was announcing a book for managers with tips on how to nourish and revitalize a troubled team. It began:

Too many employees these days are feeling overworked, under-appreciated, and skeptical. And despite the hopeful talk of recovery, they remain anxious, distrustful, and-worst of all-disengaged.

The part of the email that made me drop my coffee cup was this:

So why should it matter how your employees feel, so long as they show up and do their jobs each day? The answer is productivity!

This was followed by statistics connecting low productivity with financial ruin.  I"m not naive and I know that money drives business, but I was startled by this cavalier wording. I immediately Googled the title of the book to see what Dickensian publishing house was turning this one out. What I learned is that it's not what Monty implied it was. (I'm not mentioning the name of the book because I don't want it to inadvertently receive bad press--other than what it is presently receiving courtesy of the people who are trying to sell it.) It's actually a very thoughtful discussion of how to unite and inspire a team, and not in terms of what it means to the bottom line.

Now I am a little sympathetic to Monty because in the marketing business, it's drilled into you to anticipate the customers' needs and fears and play to those; if fear of bankruptcy is one of them, so be it. I think in this case he just missed the mark a little. What he failed to realize is that for every manager out there with spinning dollar signs in place of his pupils, there are two who are truly concerned with keeping their employees happy for reasons having little to do with money. I was actually saddened and a little insulted by the wording in the press release. It is honestly not the way I approach personnel management and I resented the implication.

And, let's face it, the people who see the most direct profit from low turnover are the stockholders. But this book is not geared toward stockholders.

My issue is that if you order this book (or undertake any kind of exercise in team building) merely because you want to increase productivity and, in the process, line your pockets, then you're going to be out of luck. Your staffers will sniff out the wrong motivation and your efforts will come across as phony as Paris Hilton's latest alibi.

Happy employees don't work faster, they work better. They're more creative and they work better with their co-workers. And the result of this is a lot more holistic than the bottom line.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

138 comments
Gravitywell
Gravitywell

Well written, Toni. I find it appalling that the work ethic has devolved at my place of employment where employers and employees used to work together to get the job done- to the employer now sending bonuses to salaried folks JUST FOR SHOWING UP FOR WORK! And there is a problem with the younger crowd talking/ texting on their phones instead of doing what they are paid for- and getting away with it! (I'd be checkin' those things at the door!)

ggheorghiu
ggheorghiu

Many managers, but also customers completely ignore the fact that people need to be motivated in order to be productive. Here's what someone commented on a blog post i wrote about customer service people: "Why should I make an effort to ?understand? if they are ?not motivated?? Shouldn?t being employed be motivation enough?" And the person who left the comment is supposedly a "Customer service advocate" http://blog.technologyevaluation.com/blog/2010/08/03/4-things-you-should-think-of-before-going-postal-on-customer-service/

TommCatt
TommCatt

You know when you tell a joke or drop a pun and everyone laughs (or groans) except the one guy who looks lost? You pass your hand over your head and say, "Whoosh!" The guy just doesn't get it. Productivity may be the reason you're motivating your staff, but it is not the motivation you *give* your staff. The more productive a workforce, the higher paid the workforce, and the more profitable the business. (Think they could be related?) But it doesn't motivate the workforce. The owner of a company may tell his managers to increase productivity, but the managers can't turn around to their staff and pass on that same directive. Low and/or decreasing productivity is a symptom. Doctors don't try to cure their patients by tell them "Stop being sick!" or "Be healthier!" Employees will, during a crisis, respond for a short time to fear or other negative stimulus. But that may get you to the end of the month or end of the next quarter (if that isn't too far away). After that, management has to have something that lifts the morale and gives employees something positive to achieve. Otherwise fear is replaced by despair and "what's the use?" replaces "let's get this done." As far as I was able to understand about this book without actually reading it (something I'm not likely to do unless someone sends it to me), this is what the book is saying. Increasing productivity is the goal of management but it doesn't translate to a motivation of the workforce. Just like there is not a company in existence that does business in order to provide employment. It is a beneficial side effect (a positive externality). No employee works hard in order to achieve productivity. It is a side effect of all the other reasons that motivate him to work hard.

vidyaputra84
vidyaputra84

as an employee my self, iam agree with this; i would work hard, i would care with the final result when iam happy, when i feel my boss or the company is care to me. its just like doing something for my girlfriend, i will do it my best, care about it...

j2010biro
j2010biro

Brilliant article! I dare to retain the lalst paragraph! This is the jewwel from the crown. I experienced it personally. It is true and it works. Brake the rule and face the consequences! Robi

seanferd
seanferd

This is a complete oxymoron. One does not feel skeptical. Indeed, the email message is disturbingly... honest.

obrian
obrian

"I saw an advert for a book and I didn't like it. I liked the book, though. Also, I won't tell you what the book is." Thank you for your worthless insight into nothing.

itrigg
itrigg

not a goal ...I've been saying for years, that Efficiency should be the goal, and from that..guess what you get...

paul.doherty
paul.doherty

I phrase is "if you think thus and so you've got another THINK coming", not "thing". As in you need to reconsider what you think to be true.

yattwood
yattwood

Productivity should be serendipitous...a natural outcome from employees who are fairly compensated, appreciated and developed (oh, say, like being sent to _training_ courses in new technologies, being allowed to have a 'sandbox' environment with different kinds of servers and operating systems to experiment with, and get in _front_ of the users, instead of having to catch up!) . Unfortunately, the current economic situation has many employees tolerating conditions and work hours that cause one to wonder when the slave cabins will be erected behind the office building! And, with the spectre (British spelling) of outsourcing, downsizing constantly in the background, the 'Animal Farm' management style prevails: workers who demand even less, are worked even harder!

DesertPete9
DesertPete9

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

RR Flyer
RR Flyer

The following quote is from http://grammartips.homestead.com/anotherthink.html "A popular expression that I keep seeing misused, even by those who write for a living, is the one that goes, "If you think this, that, or the other, then you've got another think coming." "The common misuse of this expression goes thus: "If you think this, that, or the other, then you've got another thing coming."

Scook
Scook

O.K. I have been an avid reader of Tech Republic for some time and have never bothered to respond to the blogs ? however I have always enjoyed and usually learned something through the reading process. This one was no exception ? some really poignant comments. This topic is so near and dear to my heart ? it has provided the motivation to contribute my thoughts. Quite simply ? we (business in general) have missed the point and it did not happen overnight ? but rather we have evolved to an incorrect set of paradigms that are impacting (business) in very negative ways. It is NOT about Productivity ? but it is about the other ?P? words. Namely PEOPLE and PLANET and oh yeah ? PROFITS ? however that one comes last for the right reasons. Productivity is an after the fact measurement (and in many instances the measurement criteria is flawed or does not present a complete picture? this from an Industrial Engineer). Productivity measurement is at times necessary ? however it should not be confused with the GOAL, or that it will lead to the goal (which is typically too narrowly defined as $$). Our corporate focus has been too short for too long. We live in a society of time intervals measured in seconds and sound bytes, dashboards, and boards of directors as disconnected as our politicians. CEO?s are focused on weekly or at best annual results when they should be thinking in terms of decades and centuries (Yes I really do work in the IT word ? and this still applies in my vision). Investors have driven that focus with expectations of continued growth and ever expanding profits and they want it right now. The footprint of a corporation needs to change (mature) to a structure that considers the entire picture. That subject is too large for this post ? however I would start with just this simple concept; Remove the word MANAGER ? from the corporate structure and replace it with LEADER. People do not need to be managed, but we do need great leaders. Leadership begins with leading thyself (Inside ? Out, Lead By Example, etc.) and includes the basics of personal responsibility and accountability (which so many of our CEO?s seem to lack or trade off when the profits are justifiable to promote rationalizing why the laws do not apply to them or their companies). Leadership training (in a corporation run by true leaders focused on the right goals) will go a lot further in achieving those important goals than any motivational, team building workshops. ALL of us have the potential to be great leaders, and if we are ALL holding ourselves to the highest standard, why would we need some outside artificial measurement of productivity. Many of us have been fortunate to be passionate for a specific cause ? and when that happens productivity measurements are a joke ? because we are already peaking in mental focus and achievement. Energy, innovation and commitment are off the charts ? and that level can be maintained when ALL of our TRUE needs are met. Our current leaders need to reflect on their personal integrity and ask themselves if they are walking the walk. Leadership with vision and integrity ? now there?s a solution. PS ? Toni ? always appreciate your articles. 

thomas.l.deskevich
thomas.l.deskevich

You have so many different types of personalities on a football team. Being from Western PA, the Steelers come to mind. You have the place kicker who came to our little town for a promotion drunk, threw up in the bathroom, would not sign autographs, then place kicked the towel dispenser on the way home in a conveience store because it was empty. Then you have someone like the guy with the million dollar hair, that constantly blesses himself. Yet they get the job done together as a team somehow. When the game is on,they get it done. Because they have passion for the game. A coach who motivates them to rise above being average. I KNOW, I KNOW, they are highly paid, they are in the limelight, they are doing what they dreamed of doing since they were 2 years old. But still, a good analogy for me. I sometimes try to look at my job like I am a monk. Doing the most tedious things as a computer programmer. Yet offering it up to God like a monk scrubbing the floor up in a mountain somewhere. I may not be recognized or asked for my opinion, but as a Christian, remembering that my boss is a Jewish carpenter. Now that is heavy. I guess my point is that we as employees have to try to do our best regardless of the externals, which can change at the drop of a hat. Easier said than done. I do complain about things, but try to end it with, thank God I have a job. Motivation has to come from inside us, regardless of the external situation, again, easier said than done.

Underground_In_TN
Underground_In_TN

If you *think* this or that ... you might have another *think* coming. Sorry, pet peeve of mine.

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

...the things that make employees happy (me, anyway), are doing genuinely necessary work; having control over what I do; and being held responsible for doing it properly. These make me feel I'm needed and am making a valuable contribution.

mircea.corban
mircea.corban

If we are in a "Modern Times" (1936) scenario, there's no need for happiness... If we are WE (IT/other-Creative "workers"), there is no way to motivate someone unmotivated... WE love our jobs (and we'd do them unpaid...) or hate them and... Excuse me for my passion

jck
jck

I want you to be my boss. Thanks, jck

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

Wow, you've been much more fortunate than I. It wasn't until my 5th job that I worked for people who truly cared about the employees - and that only lasted for 4 years when the old founder of the company died. Since then I've been lied to, lied about, treated like a child and lost my job TWICE due to 'down-sizing'. The current paradigm is "What are we going to do? last year we made $9 million profit but this we only made $8 million. ... We need to get rid of those pesky employees"

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

can have value, harnessing your people's desire to create and to do is what makes happiness and money and more to the point opportunities for people and business. You can't stop people like us having ideas, wanting to try things and to create new value or added value. It's what makes us tick. Direct it. Choke it and they'll leave, it's what they want to do.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

That the employee has a product you need. You must be willing to pay the price for that product or be prepared to find another supplier. Hope it remains a buyer's market as it is today, because as the economy improves (and we know it will, our President told us so), it will become more of a seller's market. This is when you will need your provider's loyalty. Company picnics may foster some sense of camaraderie, but such is often short-lived and may evaporate come Monday morning if they find themselves faced with the same depressing situation the party was supposed to beat - stressful deadlines, continuous pressure to close that contract, Noisy HVAC, blue fluorescents, empty snack machine, parking half a mile away, And supervisors walking up and down the aisles like they were watching over mudpits, whip in hand. And the continuous threat: if you don't do well enough, there will be layoffs. Morale, indeed. The enemy is major clinical depression and it's an officially recognized disability, and often leads to someone using your office as a shooting range. Bummer.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

Most of them are established by gummint agencies, so they don't count. Then there's Goodwill Industries,et c. supposedly a for-profit nonprofit, whatever that is.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

It has the "speeder", so that you can "increase speed". A company doesn't have a "productivitator", "productivity" is what you end up with, as a result of your past choices in management.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

your company isn't doing to you what you're doing to your girlfriend. (I'm sorry, but the opportunity presented itself)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Many people feel skeptical, all the while drinking all the kool-aid they can get their trembling hands on. It's nice to feel skeptical, specially without going to the trouble of actually doubting.

rleongm
rleongm

Productivity is not a good goal by itself. To motivate people to be productive we have to consider who we are motivating first and what is our vision. We are talking about productivity of IT workers, that most of the time are motivated by self-actualization to use the Maslow's theory terminology. No one is paying us to write this? correct ?, However as I read this discussion I find we are been productive! How we measure productivity in an innovation driving society or business we should consider improvement of efficiency and effectiveness and in order to get there we must consider the following; Contingency theories - "Is a class of behavioral theory that contend that there is no one best way of leading and that a leadership style that is effective in some situation may not be successful in others." As specialization of IT personal has grown so fast that to be productive implies a tight binding between co worker or tech family, like or similar to an operation in a surgical room each person has to know there task and they must be motivated to do there best. Finally the goal has to be very clear in order to get the needed outcome.

snideley59
snideley59

It was framed over my new boss's desk. And he turned out to be the best guy I ever worked for. He called himself "the designated javelin catcher" by which he meant that he took personal responsibility for every complaint from the user base and then "decided which one of us to poke with it". Unfortunately, one of his "superiors" threw him under the bus one too many times erroneously and now he's quite happy elsewhere. I envy the people that work for him.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

have a measuring stick that tells you when something is a deliberate play on words, and when it's a dumbass mistake?

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

"Being appreciated" for "being held responsible". "Held responsible" sounds like an impending criminal proceeding.

juliekimjoyce
juliekimjoyce

However, the occasional gesture of appreciation (bacon buttie, for example, doughnut, or other delicacy as available) is always gratefully received ...

ZiggyZag
ZiggyZag

Encouraging creativity in our line of work is what keeps us going. Stifle our creativity and the value added to a company usually diminishes.

robalexclark
robalexclark

I knew that it was time to leave my last job when by boss said to me "I wish you wouldn't try to be so innovative Robin".

santeewelding
santeewelding

We have an entirely different outlook about the landscape, according to what you have been saying. This is not to say I have not experienced a supervisor with whip in hand. I didn't buy into it. I'm thinking you did. I'm thinking you dismiss the whole of it at that. Fortunately, it appears, you are retired. You get to spew this shilt without retribution -- you think. There's old guys like me who will take you up on it.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...putting them in positions which challenge them, but will hold their interest ...showing appreciation for honest effort ...Providing the tools needed to allow your employee to create what is needed to accomplish his task effectively ...Compensate employee to a level commensurate with his value. Lapel pins for the Gold Club or something like that are helpful, notch up his company car maybe. ...More vacation time, and flexible, and priority over lesser performing employees ...If company structure allows it, and it won't ruin his "modus operandi", a promotion to leadworker, team leader, but something that keeps him in his specialty. Provide leadership training and follow him to be sure that his leadership style is compatible with his new staff. Good employees are more than just a larger cog in the machine, but assets that should be developed, courted even, to win their loyalty. This is what you want to staff to be - good people doing good work because they feel appreciated, pay will support a home and family - and it's not a dead end job!

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

over a police dispatcher's console. I wish I could remember more of the stuff that showed up there. That's a bunch who really need all the help they can get, and some xanax, too.

techrepublic
techrepublic

And thanks for the documentation. P.S. Toni, as bosses go, you're one in a million. Too bad there aren't more like you.

tom.doran
tom.doran

If, like me, you had no idea what a "bacon buttie" is, Wikipedia says it is a term in Northern England referring to a bacon sandwich. It may be made with a large bun or roll but may use two slices of bread, usually thick slices of a savory bread. In photos there appears to be a quarter pound of bacon. It's often served with "brown sauce" which is similar to A-1 or Heinz 57. Depending on where you are in Northern England, it might be called a bap, barm, or cob. It lacks the L & T of the American BLT.

jck
jck

Toni is not only classy, but she has the mentality of a manager that I like. Judge me on the work I can do for you. When it comes down to it, I am there to perform a set of tasks that provide a desired end-result. She is the kind of boss I want. One who won't treat me poorly over me needing time off to have 4 teeth fixed and get checked to make sure I don't have cancer.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

Back in the 70's I came up with an idea that would not only save time, please customers and save this multinational business machine corporation hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was told to mind my position and leave the designing to the engineers. I soon left for a much smaller company who appreciated my abilities. The multinational? It no longer exists.

_rob_d
_rob_d

that's more or less the trigger that made me leave my last job too

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

is thoroughly screwed. Four antidepressants a day, shrink every six weeks, counselor every two and still I regale every poor sap who listen to me wallow in self pity. I am encouraged to tell my story on the one hand and on the other I'm advised to forget it and get on with life. All I'm sure of is that I need to get on with my life. But I'm just not able to overcome it all. I guess that's why they gave me a 60% disability. I never would have believed something like *depression* could do this. Anyhow, thanks for listening, you're about my 15th victim. (Oh yeah - I lost my first wife of 34 years in the middle of all this, now I'm torturing my second)

santeewelding
santeewelding

Saving this up? Doesn't matter to me what you have been through. I look only to your mindset, now.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

It was old guys who drug me into this, it was *young* guys who re-assigned me, who attacked my expertise, who tried to falsify and "seed" my personnel record with adverse reports and phony complaints and reprimands (none of which were sent to me for acknowledgment by my signature),who theatened to "take me out", to have me shot as a traitor, or for violating the "chain of command", who drug my name through the mud, It was old guys who pulled me out. I am one of the Old Guys, you see? I pulled in lots of strings, called a lot of markers. I called in some big guns, some caught the city completely off guard. Every single claim they filed evaporated in front of the jury. The city didn't have a flippin' chance. The information planted in my personnel file was shot down as 100% fabricated, with forged signatures. The mayor who directed the whole matter from his office, who had written and singed letters instructing my department head to "get rid of him anyway you can, hung his head in shame. during cross. He had no defense. Some lawyers not connected with the case, and a judge of appellate adjudication said I might win as much as a million dollars. Cities attorneys walked out, but they were told to proceed with the case, that they would convince the jury that I was the worst kind of fool - one who thought he could beat the most popular mayor in this town's history. This town was surprised when as a political ploy the mayor stepped down, perhaps seeking pity from his supporters, perhaps thinking he would not be held accountable for the obvious attempt to cover up improper dealings by his new communications head. He found that instead of me, it was he who was being thrown to the sharks. His old boy network had maneuvered to remove him from power before he identified too many people. His former adversary in elections, now president of the City Council and next in line for Mayor, stepped in happily. Even he was voted out next election. So you see as I undertook to make that shrill noise, I created a lot of change, mostly for the good.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

This list, however unclear I made it,is for the retention and promotion of good people, not to promote the general welfare...

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

and she would never have slowed down enough to read it. "D-a-addy-y, are these grapes fresh? "Those aren't grapes, honey..."

santeewelding
santeewelding

To my young one at the time: "Any complaint about the free services, and there will be no more free services."

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...I'm starvin' It's 1AM, our kitchen remodel is half done, so I don't even have a microwave now, all food stored away in unmarked boxes. And I'm *sick* of Mickey D's! But I found a pound and a half of Skittles. I'll recover in a couple days but I might need a shot of insulin. Thanks Tom!

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