“Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery, and purpose.”
That’s Daniel Pink’s 140-character Twitter summary of his book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. We’ve definitely reached a new era when books come with their own Tweet suggestions!
Communications is in the business of motivation. And yet so often, I see well-intentioned communicators slaving over one-off motivational campaigns (complete with company t-shirts) to minimal lasting effect. Pink’s insights into human motivation expose how important it is for Communications to ditch the fluff, and focus instead on creating an environment that can sustain employee motivation.
For those of you who haven’t read the book, its basic tenets are simple:
- Business is built on reward and punishment (carrot and stick) extrinsic motivators.
- Humans are built on an innate need to direct their lives, learn and create new things, and do better by themselves and the world.
- Therefore, what business does and what humans need are in conflict.
Today, work has become increasingly non-routine, that is, “creative, conceptual, right-brain work that can’t be reduced to a set of rules.” In this environment, intrinsic (human) sources of motivation trump external ones.
Pink does not suggest that your company replace existing staff with hyper self-aware “Type I’s” – i.e., people who are intrinsically motivated and crave freedom and new experiences. Type I’s are made, not born. Therefore, to cultivate more Type I employees, Pink suggests that companies:
“Concentrate on building a healthy, long-term motivational environment that pays people fairly and that fosters autonomy, mastery, and purpose.”
Autonomy, mastery, and purpose–the three nutrients required for an individual to thrive. Communications cares about employees ability to thrive, which is why the function has focused incessantly on employee engagement. What Pink teaches us is that instead of one-off campaigns to get employees pumped, Communications should focus its energy on the long-term creation and maintenance of an environment that fosters and supports these intrinsic motivators.
Fortunately, we’ve seen many communications executives already pursuing strategies that align with Pink’s concepts of intrinsic motivation. What are you doing to help your employees (and yourself) light an inner fire to grow and achieve?
Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives
Sabre’s internal social network, SabreTown, enables employees to network across the organization, share their personal and professional passions, and discover new opportunities. CEC members, check out a video of SabreTown.
Mastery—the urge to get better and better at something that matters
One of the keys to mastery is useful feedback. Company cultures that foster two-way dialogue and an open communications culture increase the likelihood that employees will feel comfortable asking for and internalizing the feedback that will help them master new tasks and skills.
CEC members, help build your organization’s ability to conduct dialogue by learning from:
Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves
Intrinsic sources of motivation do not disallow an individual’s aspiration to have an impact beyond himself/herself. Indeed, CEC’s work on Activating Stakeholder Support confirms that “belonging” is one of the most potent drivers for human action. A sense of collective purpose, then, is critical for Communications to nurture.
CEC members, learn from companies who’ve helped employees discover a higher meaning in their work: