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Fostering Employee Motivation

  • By Admin
  • Published January 28, 2019
  • Tagged

When it comes to motivating others, carrots and sticks are passé. In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Alfie Kohn draws on the synthesis of decades of research on human motivation to explain why relying on rewards backfires.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

There are two basic types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is when someone is internally motivated to complete a task for its own sake. Extrinsic motivation relies on outside rewards (or “sugarcoated control”, as Alfie Kohn calls it) to influence the behavior of others.  Intrinsic motivation is a better predictor of achievement and engagement, and can actually be damaged by rewards.

One possible reason is that the ability to reward someone implies an unequal balance of power, and can begin to feel like bribes. Another possibility is the concept of the hedonic adaptation. Hedonic adaptation is the tendency of the human brain to quickly return to a happiness homeostasis. Receiving the reward becomes the new normal, and is no longer enticing.

Why do we still rely on rewards?

This may not seem like news in the world of nonprofits; salaries are often lower than in the private industry, so it stands to reason that intrinsic motivation is doing the heavy lifting in the employee/employer relationship. However, many managers still rely on extrinsic rewards to motivate employees. Though the logic is outdated, it’s been so ingrained in work culture that it’s difficult to overcome.

According to Ivey Business Journal, there is a tendency to assume that other people are motivated by extrinsic rewards, even when we recognize the importance of intrinsic motivation for ourselves. Knowledge is power, and being mindful of this bias can help defuse it and bring the focus back to emphasizing intrinsic motivation.

Increasing Intrinsic Motivation in the workplace

Because intrinsic motivation relies on internal states rather than external rewards, it can be more difficult to cultivate. However, the quality of work and engagement that it fosters makes the effort worthwhile. There are several steps that managers can take to nurture intrinsic motivation:

  • Emphasize meaning

People are most motivated by what they find meaningful. Many people choose to work for nonprofits because of the opportunity to do work that makes a contribution to their community. The psychological rewards of giving back to others are strong, and managers can use that to build engagement. Connect a clear mission and purpose to the work at every turn, and help employees set defined goals that relate to the value of their work. If their work directly impacts others, arrange for them to meet those people or hear their stories.

  • Encourage autonomy and creativity

When we create our own goals and have the latitude to determine the best course of action towards those goals, it makes us much more invested in them. Whenever possible, allow employees to define their challenges, design goals, and conquer them in the way they see fit.

  • Provide feedback

Help employees monitor progress towards their goals. Give praise when goals are accomplished, and give honest constructive feedback in areas that require more growth. Recognize employees who have done an outstanding job of contributing to the organization.

  • Find the gaps

Use tools like the Work Engagement Profile to find baseline levels of engagement, and craft an employee engagement plan according to the results. Use the tools to check in regularly and see what’s working and which areas need improvement.

Enacting effective motivation strategies is an investment in your staff, and essentially an investment in your overall organization. Like a butterfly effect for business, management (whether good or bad) effects every other aspect of the organization. Management that has a strong grasp of how intrinsic motivation works and how to implement it will have more success attracting and retaining the best talent, which inspires more public confidence and in turn leads to more donations and funding.

Big Impact Interviews: Leon Botstein

Our interview with Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, for our book, Big Impact: Insights & Stories from America’s Non-Profit Leaders, was nothing short of profound and fascinating.

Bard College should not exist. When Leon Botstein was named president, in 1975, he was only 25 years of age, and—at least according to Botstein—was offered the job because no one else wanted it. The college was floundering, and everyone predicted it would close soon after Botstein took over.

Forty-two years later, Bard has 2,000 undergraduate students and a host of other programs, including graduate, early college/high school and 3+2 degrees, where students receive masters’ degrees after only 3 years of college and 2 of graduate school. In 2017, Bard was ranked the fourth most innovative college in the country by US News & World Report.

What is Botstein’s secret? Well, anyone who knows him knows he is brilliant—although he denies it. He said, “The biggest misconception about me is that I am gifted, I am not, I am just hard working.” We can learn from his relentless drive to make an undergraduate college education relevant, first in the 20th and now in the 21st century.

This means staying current with what students need to both contribute to a better world and excel in it after they graduate. It also means focusing on the pipeline of high school students who will eventually apply to college. Public high schools are often criticized for failing to prepare students adequately for college. Bard’s answer to this is its early college/high school program, in which high school students can earn up to one year, and sometimes even two years, of college credit by taking college-level courses following their 9th and 10th grade years.

The remarkable part about these early college programs is that Bard offers them free of charge through public-private partnerships. For example, Bard works with the New York City Department of Education to offer early college programs both in separate schools and in public high schools where students can take some early college classes.

Even more remarkable are the results these programs produce. In 2015, an independent study found that over 90% of Bard Early College graduates achieve their bachelors’ degrees in six years, versus only 59% for the rest of the college population. And because these students complete college in 2 or 3 years, rather than 4, they, their parents—and the government—save money, sometimes quite a lot of money.

We might ask why more cities don’t offer early college programs. The only answer we can give is that promoting successful innovation can take years, and requires the persistence of someone like Botstein to make it happen.

For a link to the audio of our interview with Leon Botstein, please click here.

Hiring The Best Talent For Your Nonprofit

  • By Linda Hartley
  • Published June 5, 2016
  • Tagged

Last month, I looked at retaining good talent for your nonprofit once you have found the right employees for the job. This month, I take a step back and look at hiring the right people in the first place. This is a hot topic in the U.S. because the economy is improving consistently and the job market is growing.
What Do Your Employees Really Do?
So what is a hiring manager to do? The first step is to make sure you have a really good job description. That means a job description that accurately reflects what the person in the role really does — not what we think they should be doing or would be doing in a perfect world. If your organization is small, there will probably be a lot of doing as well as managing.
Find the Needle in the Haystack
The second step is posting the job in the right places. We all know about idealist.org and philanthropy.com. And there are always specialized sites for people with particular skill sets like accounting (FENG) or human resources (SHRM). And, of course, don’t forget LinkedIn. My husband recently found out about a job because someone in one of his interest groups posted an announcement.
The third step is targeting the people you want rather than just those who answer your ads. LinkedIn is critical to this effort. Find the groups you should be posting in based on the type of job for which you are recruiting. Most people in these groups are happy in their jobs. But perhaps a few of them could be tempted to apply if you wrote them a personalized note.
Keep Track of All Those Haystacks
Would you like a great way to manage your pipeline of candidates? You might want to check out iKrut, a free recruitment software system used by both companies and job applicants. iKrut allows you to:
  • Post all your vacancies in one place.
  • Give selected colleagues a way to view and comment on applications without emailing them around.
  • Track how applicants found the posting.
  • Send automated emails to candidates rather than worrying about whether or not you have responded to each one.
Old-fashioned Manners Still Have a Place
Striking the right balance between personalized and electronic is a challenging task in our technological age. If you have found a candidate you really like, make sure to call and thank her for coming in for yet another interview. Such gestures are uncommon today, and you will be amazed by the difference they make.
Good luck with your hiring!
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