Kathy Klotz-Guest

Secrets to Employee Engagement: Autonomy, Purpose, Fun

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 12:30 am

Dan Pink, author of Drive:What Motivates Us, writes that it’s the desire for autonomy and self-direction that drives engagement. That research isn’t new – it’s been in the organizational performance literature for some time. However, Pink’s fresh “animated” take provides an interesting, digestible narrative on the topic:

People want to be self-directed and have autonomy over the ways in which they create. Every one is creative. Creativity does not mean artistry. It simply means to create something new: processes, products, ideas, whatever. When employees have work that is challenging and creative,  a notable degree of autonomy over how that work gets done,  and have fun and engage in PLAY (a catalyst for innovation), engagement rises.  It’s hard not to have fun when you have autonomy and you are feeling creative.

It’s not rocket science. Yet, sadly too many companies come at engagement with a hammer or, at the other extreme, the “bonus” carrot.  Pink’s work corroborates prior research that shows the best minds are not motivated by money – it’s the opportunity to create with purpose. To do something extraordinary. Who among us does not want to do work that matters?

Corporate culture will have to change quickly. In technology, product life cycles are getting shorter – straining resources and staff and asking people to do far more with less. Moreover, many people are dissatisfied with constrained corporate roles. Research from Forrester among other companies even shows that Gen Y’ers are contributing tremendously to these changes in corporate culture. They demand interesting work, transparency, they are fluent in conversational and collaborative technologies, they don’t subscribe to the formal  “silo” between professional and personal lives that prior generations, and they want fun at work. That’s right – humor and fun are expected in the workplace in order to do meaningful work.

Here’s to progress!

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