If we never teach people about extrinsic motivation, can we preserve the power of intrinsic motivation?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Most of my career has had some component spent trying to design bonus or variable compensation structures that adequately align individual behavior to core company targets. But I kept going back to this: aren’t we actually asking people to do the job they were hired to do?
In the workforce, I think there’s only one way to successfully harness the power that is an intrinsically motivated workforce, and that is giving your employees the autonomy to work on the things that they perceive to matter to the company’s mission and pay them a competitive salary to do it. That’s the reward. Don’t get me wrong – bonuses are an important way to pay a dividend back to your employees when the company exceeds expectations. But when you move too far to the side where bonuses and variable compensation are creating prioritized sets of behaviors, you’ve lost the intrinsic motivation game.
Here’s the trick.
You need incredible managers and leaders to create the culture where every employee is able to clearly connect what they are working on right now with what they as a company are doing to change the world.
This is often in the top three reasons as to why employees become dissatisfied with their roles and leave – they don’t believe what they are doing matters. This is a mentality that can quickly become a toxic tick within an organization. When you’re focusing on catalyzing intrinsic motivation and fail to give your managers and employees the tools to understand why what they do everyday matters, then we have an epidemic on our hands.
As I’ve worked with teams over the years on the process for creating organizational alignment, I formulated a simple framework that works across a broad spectrum of organizational complexity and sizes. Below you’ll see the template I use and train others on for how to drive alignment from strategy to execution so everyone can see themselves in the company’s vision, and so you can open your organization to leaning into intrinsic motivators:
How this translates into the real world might be something like this for an HR function:
Your mid-level managers can then use the operating scorecard to make sure the organization is moving at a desired rate towards the vision of success as measured by core rollup metrics that you review on a bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis
Try it out, and I’d love to hear how your strategic alignment exercises go. If you would like to chat more deeply about bringing this framework into your organization, please reach out.