Company Culture, Motivation & Performance

Why we work...

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, authors Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi shared some compelling research on how an organization's culture impacts team motivation and performance.

Many have struggled to "determine the "value" of culture, and also to identify specific ways in which leaders can engineer high-performing organizational cultures and measure their impact on the bottom line." The authors do a nice job at tackling these issues.

The first step, they say, involves answering three key questions:

  1. How does culture drive performance?
  2. What is culture worth?
  3. What processes in an organization affect culture?

"After surveying over 20,000 workers around the world, analyzing 50 major companies, conducting scores of experiments, and scouring the landscape of academic research in a range of disciplines, we came to one conclusion," the authors state. "Why we work determines how well we work."

These "why's" are then categorized as follows:

  1. Play: when people are motivated by the work itself because they like it
  2. Purpose: when people relate strongly to the direct outcome of their work
  3. Potential: when people directly benefit from the outcome of the work, as in moving up the company totem-pole or gaining prestige
  4. Emotional pressure: when people work because some external force threatens their identity, such as "fear, peer pressure, or shame"
  5. Economic pressure: we work strictly for the money
  6. Inertia: when people aren't sure why they are doing the work but do it out of habit or because "this is how it's always been done..."

The authors go on to explain that surveys and research proved that the first three "whys" are closely associated with the work, and that people who work for those reasons perform better that those motivated by the latter three. In addition, leaders who are able to make strategic use of the first three "whys" can, therefore, have a more positive impact on team motivation and performance.

You can read the full article here.