Anyone who has woken up at an ungodly hour, sleepy eyed, to get ready for work has probably asked themselves at some point “How badly do I really need this job?”. Every day billions of people around the world drag themselves out of bed to go to work, put money in their pocket, and obtain all the things they need and want.
But do we really all repeat this routine with nothing more than a desire to fill our bank account? The reality is, our motives for completing tasks, jobs and pursuing careers are not that simple. Evidence suggests we roll our sleeves up and hit the daily grind for a lot more than just money, and good leaders know this.
Dan Ariely, a Behaviour Economist and Professor at MIT, elaborated on the ideas of career motivation during a TED talk called “What makes us feel good about our work?”. In his talk, Dan discusses the importance of finding “meaning” in the work we do, and the importance of feeling that our job has an overall impact on a company’s ambition or contributions.
This was highlighted by an experiment Ariely conducted which had participants build lego figures for increasingly small amounts of money, for example, $3.00, followed by $2.70 and so on. The independent variable was how the figure was used afterwards. With one group of participants, the finished figures were placed under a desk, out of sight of the participant, before they were given another set to build.
With another set of participants, each figure they completed was dismantled in front of the participant while they were building the next one, this process was repeated every time they finished a figure. The results found that those in the first group, whose figures were placed out of sight, on average produced 11 figures before stopping, while the second group, whose figures were dismantled, produced only 7.
When considering workers, it’s important to remember that a worker’s sense of worth correlates with their recognised progress and respect within the company. In many cases it can be too easy to constantly look ahead, taking only a brief moment to celebrate a win before looking at what is next. To keep employees motivated it is vital to acknowledge their contribution to the company, along with their time, work and effort.
It can be hard for employees to remember that they are actually making a difference, especially if a job is very mundane or routine. Many startups have been developing company cultures that remind employees of their impact. Snagajob.com, for example, is an online job hunting site that tries to highlight the positive impact of the company by sharing with their employees “I Got Hired” stories.
The stories are circulated in the company by email and contain real-life stories from individuals who are happy to have successfully obtained a job using the company’s website. Such stories can display the effect a company’s service or product can have on individuals, allowing them to feel like they have taken part in something bigger with a positive overall impact.
Snappy Gifts is a startup aimed at helping employers reward staff through a completely novel approach, ensuring they leave work with a little more than a smile. The New York-based startup allows users to select from a collection of personalized gifts and sends the list in seconds to a deserving employee who can then choose one and customize its size, color, and their desired shipping address.
“We allow people to save the time and hassle of searching for a gift without having to settle for a meaningless and boring gift card,” explains CEO and Co-Founder, Hani Goldstein. “By combining the traditional thoughtfulness of gifting with all the convenient advantages of a gift card, Snappy creates a simple, personalized solution, ensuring that unwanted gifts and uncomfortable returns are a thing of the past.”
The human brain contains one of the most complex structures in the universe and understanding how it works and identifying what influences our behavior is still in large part, a mystery. As a result, we are not simple beings and our psychology indicates that it takes more than money to feel fulfilled and reach our full potential. After all, it is hard to believe that we were put on this earth just to work and pay bills.