One of the fallouts of a tough economy is employee engagement. Reports show that an increasing number of employees across industries are planning to look for a new job when the economy turns around. If you’re one of them, how do you keep yourself motivated?
After years of HR experience, my conclusion is that the highest performing employees are intrinsically motivated. (There’s a good definition of intrinsic motivation in this article about gifted kids, and the same concept applies to employees).
What does that have to do with the economy? Plenty. People who are motivated by their own internal goals are at a significant advantage in this economy. Here’s why – remember gym class in school? Some of us were not big fans of gym class. The teacher would call for jumping jacks and we’d stand in the back of the class, moving our arms up and down to create the appearance of effort. Now as adults, we go to the gym. When you go to the gym, you notice that no one is sitting back and waving their arms pretending to exercise. They’re motivated to get fit, or at least to not waste their time and money.
While walking the dog before work this morning, I was thinking about discretionary effort. Like many people, I have a New Year’s resolution of better health, which of course includes increasing exercise. I live in a snowy climate, so that’s not an easy task. This morning I had to choose between walking on the plowed street, or along the sidewalks, where some were plowed and some were covered in snow. I chose the snow, figuring I’d get more exercise.
What is it that makes some people put forth discretionary effort while other people hold back? It’s intrinsic motivation.
In both of these examples, the person who is going to get better results – get more fit, in this case – is the person who is putting in the extra effort. Yet, in this economy, a lot of people will reduce their discretionary effort. If they’re not getting external rewards, i.e. big bonuses and perks, pay increases, etc. that they’ve become accustomed to in years past, their logic is “why even try”. You worked hard, you didn’t get the big rewards, so you reduce your discretionary effort.
This is a bad approach. Why? Because all of the people who are intrinsically motivated keep performing, keep achieving, and keep growing. Before long, they’ve increased their fitness and you’ve just increased your arm flapping.
To keep yourself motivated, find your inner motivation rather than holding out for external rewards. Use your current projects to build your skills and your resume. Volunteer for new projects that will expose you to new areas or new things you haven’t done before. Look for ways to take your project deliverables to a whole new level and exceed what is asked of you. Before you know it, you will have improved your skills as well as your contributions to your company, leaving you better positioned for rewards in the future.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
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