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Unconventional Business Goals That Drive Employee Motivation

An employee who is motivated and engaged with their work is frequently more productive than their disengaged counterparts—helping to drive success for the business as a whole. According to research from Gallup:

“Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. Work units in the top quartile also saw significantly lower turnover (25% in high-turnover organizations, 65% in low-turnover organizations), shrinkage (28%), and absenteeism (37%) and fewer safety incidents (48%), patient safety incidents (41%), and quality defects (41%).”

Knowing that employee motivation has a strong correlation with the productivity, profitability, and other key performance indicators, the question, then, is: “how can you drive employee engagement in your organization?
Crafting a clear set of goals for the business can have a significant impact on employee motivation. With the right goals or mission statements, businesses can inspire workers and make them feel that their work is worthwhile—even if those goals aren’t “traditional.”
Some unconventional examples of business goals that can help motivate employees include:

Helping People in the Community

Many people (especially Millennials) are more likely to be motivated by the thought of helping people in need than they are by meeting some arbitrary financial goal for a nameless investor. Creating goals for helping members of your organization’s local community is a great way to motivate these employees.
For example, in one Big Think article, a field study conducted by Wharton professor Adam Grant highlighted the results of showing employees the impact their work had on actual people:

“Grant brought a student into a call-center that raised money to fund scholarships. The student had directly benefited from the fundraising, and he spoke to employees for 10-minutes about how his scholarship changed his life and helped him land a job as a teacher for Teach for America. He couldn’t have succeeded without their effort. Did the 10 minute confession matter? Grant found that workers spent 142 percent more time on the phone and brought in 171 percent more revenue a month after the testimonial – despite the fact they used the same script.”

By linking the results of their efforts at the call center to a person who benefitted from their fundraising efforts, this one call center was able to significantly increase their revenue generation. Employees were using the same script, but they were also putting in more effort and getting better results.
So, setting goals to help members of the community, rather than focusing on revenue generation, can be highly effective for motivating employees. It’s also important to demonstrate to employees how their efforts impact others. It’s not enough to say that their work is making the world a better place—you have to show it, too.

Creating a Positive Company Culture

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, sat down with Big Think for an interview about how he motivates his employees. During the interview, he shared an anecdote from his early days when he was part of a dotcom startup called Link Exchange. At first, things were great for the company—at least when it was just a small handful of friends. As Hsieh put it:

“That worked great until we got to about 15 or 20 people and then we ran out of friends to hire and so we then started hiring people that had all the right skill sets and experiences, but weren’t necessarily great for the company culture. And we just didn’t know any better to pay attention to culture. And by the time we got to 100 people I myself dreaded getting out of bed in the morning to go to the office, and that was kind of a strange feeling because this was a company I had co-founded.”

If the CEO of a business can have his motivation to work sapped by poor company culture, just imagine the effect it can have on every other employee. Hsieh took this lesson to heart. When he became a part of Zappos, first as an advisor/investor and later as CEO, Hsieh decided to make improving the company culture his top business goal.
As he said in the Big Think interview:

“Company culture had always been important because I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake I had made at my previous company, but instead of just saying it’s a priority let’s actually make it the number one priority of the company, with the belief that if we get the culture right then most of the other stuff—like delivering great customer service or building a long term enduring brand or business—will happen just naturally on its own.”

With Zappos, the goal was to build the best possible business culture—and other business goals fell into place because employees were motivated rather than depressed by the company culture.
While these goals aren’t very conventional compared to the classic “raise sales by X” or “increase customer satisfaction by Y%” goals that you might normally see in a business plan, they help motivate employees to meet those other, more bottom line-driven goals.

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