Posted by: Ray Brescia | June 2, 2014

Making it Work at Work

“The way we’re working isn’t working” is the opening line of an op-ed piece, co-authored by Tony Schwartz, President and CEO of The Energy Project, a consulting group that strives to help workplaces become healthier, happier and more productive.  It’s also the title of an excellent book, also co-authored by Mr. Schwartz, on the same subject.  In the piece, like with the book, Schwartz tries to chart out a new direction for working, one that is more efficient, productive, fulfilling and rewarding.

Schwartz and his co-authors collaborated with the Harvard Business Review to survey thousands of employees to understand what makes people engaged and productive at work.  They conclude as follows.

Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.

For employers, the authors offer the following advice:

The more effectively leaders and organizations support employees in meeting these core needs, the more likely the employees are to experience engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction and positive energy at work, and the lower their perceived levels of stress. When employees have one need met, compared with none, all of their performance variables improve. The more needs met, the more positive the impact.

This guidance sounds a lot like Dan Pink’s description of what motives us from his book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.  According to Pink, we are driven by the desire to improve something important to us (Mastery), to be self directed (Autonomy), and to produce something beyond ourselves (purpose).

The workplace can be so much more than just a place to earn a paycheck.  It is a place where individuals can pursue fulfillment and meaning: a place to apply one’s skills and experience, to be creative and support the creative pursuits of others.  Importantly, supporting workers’ pursuits in these ways makes them better and more productive workers, results in less worker turnover, and this helps workers experience less stress.   Employers should strive to tap into and support their employees in ways that help them find mastery, autonomy and purpose.

The Schwartz, et al., piece mentioned earlier is entitled “Why You Hate Work.”  It also sits at number one on the “Most Emailed” list on the New York Times website this morning.  For a day at least, it seems to be resonating.

Everyone, from the lowest paid laborer to the highest paid CEO wants to get something meaningful out of his or her work.  I’ve been on the low end, and one can try to do the best one can do at one’s job, regardless of the pay or the status.  One can strive to take pride in the work and a job well done.  As a knowledge worker today, I am fortunate enough to have a position where I can find mastery, autonomy and purpose.  As a manager, I strive to support those with whom I work so that they, too, can derive pleasure and purpose from their day-to-day efforts.  It seems clear that finding the value in the work, and finding support to find that value, are critical elements of an effective and satisfying workplace.

 

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