A few years ago, I read a book that changed my life – and taught me the three little words every employee needs to hear.Daniel Pink’s “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” teaches that it isn’t always bonuses or other tangible rewards that drive performance. Of course, we at MyITpros believe in rewarding people for a job well done by paying them fairly. But, as Pink points out, once you pay people enough that money is not an issue, other factors come into play. He contends that the true motivators at that point are autonomy, mastery and purpose – the three words I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
(You can learn more about Pink’s thinking in this entertaining animation.)
Those three words have transformed the way we reward employees at MyITpros. If you operate a small business, I think you’ll find our experience eye-opening and, I hope, valuable. I’d like to share a bit about that with you here, taking Pink’s concept point by point – or word by word – and explaining the positive changes we’ve implemented as a result.
Autonomy: Leaving people free to come up with great solutions
Putting a lot of rules and restrictions around how people get their jobs done may be useful for tasks that require mechanical or physical skills. But if you want to motivate people to solve tough business problems using complex cognitive thinking, Pink says self-direction is better. This is why, whenever it’s possible or practical, MyITpros gives people opportunities to take on challenging projects – even if there’s a chance they might fail. We believe people need to be able to use their own creativity to solve things, so we give them problems to solve. And when they work out the issues, the result is a tremendous level of satisfaction that has nothing to do with money.
Mastery: Constantly creating opportunities to improve
The principle here is pretty simple. When people get really, really good at something, they feel good about themselves. They experience pride and self-respect at having mastered a skill – and that’s a feeling that no amount of financial incentive can inspire. This is why we’ve doubled our budget for employee training at MyITpros over the last three years. When we invest in training people, often enabling them to become certified or qualified in a particular skill, we get an immeasurable return on that investment. It may not be a return the company can quantify in dollars, but it pays off in higher skills and happier people.
Purpose: Making a difference in the world
It may sound lofty, but achieving more than just a financial reward can be very meaningful and satisfying both to employees and the companies where they work. (For example, I talked in a previous post about Zappos and Southwest Airlines being on a mission to serve people – not just provide them with clothing or transportation.) One way we try to instill a sense of purpose at MyITpros is to work with local organizations that help our community. We provide IT services to the local nonprofit Any Baby Can and other groups because we want to connect the work our employees do every day with helping make good things happen.
There’s one more thing we do to reward employees that I believe is important. I referred earlier in this post to Pink’s belief that financial incentives can only go so far – hence the idea that autonomy, mastery and purpose are better motivators than giving people more cash to reward performance. In that spirit, rather than giving employee bonuses for individual performance, we pay our workers with a straight salary and share company profits with them at the end of the year.
I’m very happy with the changes we’ve instituted in rewarding employees at MyITpros, and I think the people who work here will agree the experience has been positive. It’s resulted in a more satisfied workforce and, in turn, a more successful company.
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