Creating a Motivating Work Environment

The Ken Blanchard Companies is a research-based firm. Blanchard comes up with all kinds of cool ideas, hypotheses, and strategies – but only those ideas that are tested in real world environments and hold up under the scrutiny of proof are shared with our customers.

A recent article in Training magazine by Blanchard associates Drea Zigarmi, Jim Diehl, Dobie Housen, and David Witt, highlighted the responses of over 800 magazine subscribers on Blanchard’s Employee Work Passion survey.

These associates identified twelve factors that a wide variety of research found contribute significantly to the creation of a motivating work environment. The factors that generate employee work passion include:

  • Job Factors—Autonomy, Meaningful Work, Feedback, Workload Balance, and Task Variety
  • Organizational Factors—Collaboration, Performance Expectations, Growth, Procedural Justice (process fairness), and Distributive Justice (rewards, pay, and benefits)
  • Relationship Factors—Connectedness with Colleagues and Connectedness with Leader

This post will note a few significant discoveries from this study.

Respondents in the Training magazine survey were asked which of the above categories of factors was most influential regarding their intent to stay in their current job. The strongest category was Job Factors (60% scored them as most influential). However, all three categories are important to creating a motivating work environment; respondents in this study ranked job factors as the most important of the three categories.

Which are the most Important Job Factors to Employees?

Respondents were then asked to compete a forced ranking of the five job factors in order of importance to them. Though all factors were seen as important, the top ranking factors were Meaningful Work (the extent to which employees perceive their job actions are important inside and outside the organization and have lasting worth for themselves and others) and Autonomy (the extent to which employees feel empowered to make decisions about their work and tasks, in control of their work, and in control of their ability to achieve their goals).

Based on these results, leaders who desire a motivating work environment for employees might choose to spend time:

  • helping talented staff understand how their work benefits customers, stakeholders, and their community at large,
  • enabling talented staff to make decisions about how their work is done rather than having those decisions made by team leaders.

Who is Responsible for Influencing and Improving Job Factors?

Respondents were also asked who, between senior leaders, their boss, or themselves, is responsible for improving job factors in their workplace. The results were slightly surprising:

  • Senior leaders are not seen as strong drivers of Job Factors
  • Primary responsibility lies with the employees themselves
  • Secondary responsibility lies with the employees’ leaders

These results suggest that leaders and employees have mutual responsibility for improving the evidence of these desired Job Factors – the responsibility does not lie exclusively with employees’ bosses.

Leaders need to see that this partnership for creating a motivating work environment requires their proactive time, energy, and activity to ensure employees see their company as a pretty good place to work.

Blanchard’s research indicates that employees are constantly assessing their work environment and work relationships. These assessments impact employees intentions to stay in their jobs, to apply discretionary effort, to perform well, and to endorse the organization and its leaders. When leaders partner with employees to create a motivating work environment, these intentions will be acted upon consistently.

What is your experience with a highly motivating work environment? Share your insights in the comments section below.

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  • This is an interesting set of survey results. It is difficult to disagree with anything that is there, although I am surprised by a couple of omissions:

    – Job security
    – Status factors

    It would also be interesting to understand which of these factors are continuously present and which ones are more likely to vary from day-to-day.

    • Thanks for your interest, Simon! You can learn more about this research in white papers available on Blanchard’s web site, right here: http://www.kenblanchard.com/Business_Leadership/Effective_Leadership_White_Papers/

      I suggest reading (lots of good stuff here) the “Leadership-Profit Chain,” “Employee Passion,” “Employee Work Passion” volumes 3 & 4, and “From Engagement to Passion.”

      You’ll have to register for free access to these resources.

      Cheers!

      C.

  • April LMT

    I’m a licensed massage therapist and I work part time at a day spa. Daily deal sites like Groupon have basically reduced our revenue by 75%, so the practitioners’ compensation is also cut. The daily deal practice is pervasive in my area, so how can a spa professional stay motivated when we’re expected to work twice as hard for half as much? The downward pressure on prices seems to heading toward permanence.

    • Thanks for adding your experience to this thread, April. What you describe is unfair and frustrating. The market has changed because of the daily deals. Without fair compensation, you’re not going to be highly motivated.

      I hope the market turns around for you & your peers, soon. You provide a needed service!

      Best –

      C.

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