The view from here

Why do so many organisations fail to motivate their employees?

In today's organisations, we spend a lot of money, time and energy hiring people and developing them to demonstrate a certain type of 'acceptable behaviour'. It starts on the 'induction' workshop, continues to 'training' and goes on to several 'development' stages.

We succeed in some cases, and fail in most. This is proven by the high cost of turnover in businesses worldwide - individuals you did everything you could to develop, but who never seemed to work with motivation. They may have had an outstanding talent for the job, and a perfect set of skills, but one day they left to do something else. How many of your staff members right now are secretly asking each other: 'Is this the right job for me? Have I found my passion in life?'

To achieve peak performance, individuals normally have one or more of a number of key elements: talent, skills and aptitude, inner motivators (the 'will to do it') and induced motivators (generated by the leader or the organisational culture). But the most underrated element, and the part that underpins them all, is motivation.

Peak performance requires a set of skills and aptitudes, coupled with a genetic talent to do the job. The more we know about genetics and how the brain functions, the more proof we have that we are born with preset genetic capabilities that define our future performance.

Take sport as an example: why is it that the best runners, swimmers and athletes come from specific parts of the planet? Could it be genetic influence defining specific physical performance? The same applies to performance on the job: we are born with predefined thinking and behavioural patterns and these determine our 'talent', which is why it helps to use assessment tools to identify talent before hiring.

Aptitudes, meanwhile, are the product of induction, training, development and past experience. Their effect is less significant than talent. Developing individuals with the cognitive ability to acquire skills without having the talent will result in acceptable but not optimal performance.

But what we can do is work less on identifying and developing weaknesses and more on working through individual strengths. Think about all the meetings you had discussing how to develop people's weaknesses. In life, we spend a lot of energy trying to change the behaviour of those around us: our children, spouses, co-workers and subordinates. We later realise that people are who they are. They may change their behaviour temporarily, but then go back to behaving how they are programmed to behave. We can either keep trying to change them - which usually leads to escalated conflict and reduced motivation - or accept them the way they are and change how we deal with them.

Instead of trying to force acceptable behaviour on the people you hire, wouldn't it be easier to just find the individuals with the proper genetic fit for the job and work through their strengths?

That brings us to induced motivators. Your leaders do not necessarily know about the other factors that underpin performance. It is HR's job to take them through development programmes that make them more aware about brain functions and what makes each brain motivated. Only when they learn how to 'motivate to the one' can they induce the right motivators and create an organisational culture where each brain feels appreciated and supported. And only then can they expect peak performance from individuals - and from the organisation.

Dr Antoine Eid
Managing partner of Leapership Consultants, operating in the UAE, Lebanon and the UK

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