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.