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on March 9, 2013


            Let’s begin with some concepts which are basic to the point of this article. All human behavior is motivated. All motivation is internal and highly personal.  Goals are             the end toward which effort is directed. Effort is the conscious exertion of mental or physical energy. Goals drive behavior. Behavior is the manner in which one conducts             oneself. Employees individually have discretion over their own behavior and the achievement of personal satisfaction if not personal success.           

            Businesses also strive for success in whatever terms they choose to define that goal: market penetration, financial return, growth, etc. Critical to any organizational success             is the ROI on the human capital investment. This point is discussed in Ronald Stoll’s book Wellness the Good, the Bad, and the Opportunity: take the people out of any             organization and all that remains is a monument made of glass, steel, textiles, and concrete and good only for pigeon roosting and daily redecorating as only pigeons can.             To the other extreme, organizations see tremendous increases in employee and business performance and resulting success when a shared vision, culture of collaboration, and             alignment of company and personal goals drive the organization’s HR strategy, according to Stoll. He argues that the achievement of holistic organizational and individual             wellness must be the primary strategic objective of HR and that employee engagement is the synergistic result of holistic wellness. Stoll makes the point that people get hired             for their skills and fired for their discretionary behavior which often leaves the organization with a skill deficit. Behavior can be predicted and measured. A good example is             the Team Development System which was designed by Randy Hopkins, president of Team Excellence in Houston, Texas. Using the system’s tools like the Personal Strength Inventory             and the Performance Analysis and Review System provide the management tools to understand and benefit from appropriate discretionary behavior.           

            The alignment of personal and organizational goals generates employee engagement. The emerging workforce more and more seeks a socially responsible employment experience.             Goal alignment ensures that each person in the organization can see the direction of the organization and that not just their job but more importantly their own goals fit in             with the “Big Picture”.  Employees need to see that their discretionary efforts and chosen behaviors essentially coincide with organizational goals. To the extent that the             organizational and personal goals align, it would follow that engagement occurs.           

            It is not the writer’s position that management is a lost skill or needless function. The role of management is popularly described as coach, mentor, leader, and other similar             terms in the jargon of the day. Managers at all levels must realize that one of their most important roles is linked to their ability to manage, communicate, and track             organizational goals and then to link reward systems with individual and team performance. To the extent that the management team is on board the rest of the organization will             have a clear path to follow. To the extent that management can get employees actively engaged in the development and achievement of the organization’s strategies and goals,             employee discretionary effort will increase; and along with it, increased retention, motivation, and productivity (all properties of an engaged workforce) will result.           

            The charge is often made that employees don’t care and that work ethic changes tied to the workers’ generation is leading to a self-centered and dis-engaged workforce.             Randy Hopkins in his book Team Covenant on the other hand asserts that the greatest problem facing organizations today is not employee apathy. It is, he says, a sense of             futility. Futility occurs when employees are not kept informed about what is going on around them and they don’t know where they stand. They are not really sure of what they             are supposed to be doing and they don’t see the result of their discretionary effort, they are not allowed to think for themselves or make appropriate level decisions on             their own. Futility happens when employees are not allowed to express ideas or points of view and they are not given a voice in what they do, how they exert their energy.           

            High performing managers and employees do care and they care very much. They want more than a job. They want a lasting and engaging relationship. When employees are told to             simply be compliant, do just what the job description mandates, told that as an individual they aren’t all that important, that generates futility. Hopkins makes the point             in his book that if futility is the chief obstacle facing organizations today then motivation is the chief facilitator of employee satisfaction, productivity, and engagement             and he concludes the thought by noting that engagement is a powerful catalyst for innovation. Innovation can be seen as “applied discretionary behavior”.           

            In closing, here are 3 concepts for managers to consider personally, then as a management team, then to pose to the organization’s individual employees and employee teams:           

  • Does each and every member of the team exude the fundamental characteristics of a fully engaged employee and do they demonstrate that engagement through their behavior as witnessed through initiative, passion, and accountability?
  • What motivates ME to go above and beyond in my job performance? Every person is unique and equal opportunity does not mandate identical treatment. How can we align goals to harness discretionary behavior? What motivates each individual?
  • Given the opportunity to contribute to, be more involved with or engaged with, the organization’s vision and goals, how would this impact my commitment to organizational and personal success?

            The answers are the formula for employee engagement and synergistic discretionary employee behavior.

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