Fast Company

Motivate Your Way out of Here

FC Now reader Gemma Teed emailed this morning, writing:

Some friends have been going through motivational programs with their various employers & it got me thinking...

What happens when a company's motivational program (your career is your own responsibility, its up to you to carve your path etc.) simply motivates it's employees to seek more fulfilling work elsewhere?

Is there a fine line between fulfilling your team's self-actualising needs and showing them that the grass is greener elsewhere?

Heath forwarded the question to me, asking if I wanted to take a crack at it. Happy to help!

Gemma, I work with a group of senior leaders who have exactly the same worry as yours. They have delayed funding a career and leadership development program for fear that they will simply be strengthening the resumes of their employees so they can more easily jump ship.

When I asked why people might leave once they've been strengthened on the company dime, the answers were oh-so-revealing. The truth is these leaders don't really think they work for a "preferred employer." When I asked why (again), they created a hefty list of reasons people would leave their workplace, e.g. lack of career opportunities, little mentoring, bosses who don't seem to care, no clear vision, underwater stock prices and non-competitive salaries.

Well, duh. Fix those problems. Then put your motivational/educational programs in place. You'll increase the odds of your talent sticking around and you'll no doubt increase productivity as well.

Think of it this way. If you have a great boss, fair pay, a chance to learn and grow and interesting/challenging work (top stay factors according to our research) it will take a crow-bar to get you out of there. A career class or "pump-you-up" motivational seminar will hardly send you searching for greener grass. In fact, you may think it can't get much greener than this!

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5 Comments

  • Donald E. L. Johnson

    Pardon me, but I still am waiting to be convinced that people can be motivated if they aren't self-motivated.

    The issue is demotivation, not motivation. It is so easy to motivate the motivated than to motivate the unmotivated. Can you motivate the demotivated motivatated, probably. But then the first thing to do is to reassess your people. Select out the motivated and fire the unmotivated and maybe the demotivated who just don't like who or what you are or are trying to become.

    The first people who need evaluation are supervisors from the top down, because no matter a corporate culture, one bad supervisor can poison a lot of wells. Then look at the non-supervisors. Find the sour mouths and get rid of them. That will re-motivate the demotivated more than anything. Don't waste time trying to save the poison pills, they aren't worth it and they'll live with their sour mouths til the day they die, no matter what.

    Your responsibility is to save the organization, save the workspace for the motivated, create a relatively upbeat environment and get on with it. HR types love this stuff because it keeps them employed, but the sourest mouths in many organizations may be in HR itself. Check it out.

    Finally, fire all the HR consultants.

  • tigersdodge

    I loved the part about the managers coming up with a list of why it was a less than stellar place to work, and then sitting there.

    probably the next list to develop would be why the managers were still there if they knew all this stuff needed to be fixed (and may or may not have been on the agenda to be addressed "someday").

  • Bill

    I used to work at a Dow 30 company in which the HR person in charge of training had personally become involved with a particular "self help" program, which she then got on the agenda as an expensable program for all employees.

    As in your article, a great number of employees took the program and came away with a "Next Step" of "Quit my job and go do . . . . ".

    A new Senior manager came into the company, took one look at what was going on and said "Why are we training people to leave?" End of program.

  • Eddie Ng

    This is frequent questions to me as HR Leader from line managers. My response ususally is that you had better have a better trained employees than a untrained employees in terms of productivity gain. Challlenging a manager on how to retain a good employee actually is good training for that manager in particular. If your people are untrained and with negative impact to the team and the output, indeed you double your loss. If an employee wants to leave, having an additional training qualification or not won't matter - that is my 25 years HRM experience in MNCs in Asia.

  • Horst Bender

    When working in Japan I learned about a vital difference between Western and Japanese Management:

    The Japanese companies are moving selected
    managers across functions and businesses encouraging cross-fertilization of ideas
    and developing new perspectives.
    Exposing managers to such stimulation of the mind
    thwart parochialism in their managers and avoids
    suffering from ennui.
    Now more and more Western companies are exactly
    applying this method in companywide "repotting
    programs".It works for retaining talent.