Finding the right staff and keeping them is one of the greatest challenges that small businesses face. Many small business owners feel that a big part of the problem is that they can’t compete with the salaries and monetary incentives that big businesses offer.
According to Dan Pink, best-selling author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, these methods don’t work, anyway. Drawing on decades of research on human motivation, he maintains that science proves that the carrots (reward) and sticks (punishment) approach doesn’t work. Instead, he says, we should get the issue of money off the table.
Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose
Pink says that the true elements of motivation are autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives.
Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
In his TED Talk on The Puzzle of Motivation, Pink focuses on the autonomy aspect of motivation and describes how the Australian software enterprise company Atlassian have a few days each year where they give their engineers free reign. They send them away for 24 hours and tell them to work on anything they want to – as long as it has nothing to do with the business. Twenty-four hours later they come back with their new ideas and a whole lot of new energy.
Google are onto this form of motivation too. All staff are allowed to spend 20% of their time working on anything they want. This is not actually an exact percentage or practice at Google, what matters is that the idea of it exists – that’s what Google’s HR boss, Laszlo Bock, says in his new book Work Rules! He also says that if you’re comfortable with the amount of freedom you’ve given your employees then you haven’t given enough.
Shawn Achor is a happiness researcher, author and speaker. His TED talk, The Happy Secret to Better Work is one of the top 20 TED talks of all time and presents a compelling argument that happiness is what inspires us.
Achor says if we can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, the brain experiences a ‘happiness advantage’. Dopamine, which floods your system when you’re positive, has two functions: it makes you happier and it turns on the learning centres in your brain. Your intelligence, creativity and energy levels rise.
You can’t force positive thinking on people of course – that could have the opposite effect – and it’s ok not to be positive all the time (a Newsweek article says this can even threaten your health and happiness). But, according to Achor, all you need is two-minutes a day, over a 21-day period, to train your brain to become more positive.
Some of the practices he has done with companies and their staff include:
Take out: There are other, more meaningful and sustainable ways to motivate staff other than through monetary incentives. Find ways to give them some freedom to contribute in their own way and assist them in practicing or pursuing techniques that develop a positive mindset.