Employee retention: urban legend or actual system?

Zappos, a hugely successful online store, never ceases to amaze the world, both with its unique management methods and with its excellent customer service. The key to their success is their employees’ strong sense of commitment to the organization. To get there, Zappos’s executives decided that employees will be regarded as business partners. This means that, for example, employees are not evaluated based on daily goals of call duration or rate of upsells. The only parameter the company monitors is the extent to which their associates deliver a ‘WOW customer experience’ and how satisfied are their customers on the other end of the line.

How do they do that? Well, Zappos was able to figure out the secret of employee motivation. For example, call center employees work independently and manage the calls as they see fit. They are not given call scripts nor limited timeframes. In order for their employees to be able to work this way, Zappos makes sure to connect their employees with their broad corporate goal and motto – “being the best customer service company”. In fact, the employees themselves are the ones who write the Zappos culture book every year and even formulate the company’s ten core values.

Zappos sees employee motivation and engagement with corporate values as highly important, to the point that they let their employees formulate the company’s ten core values and culture book.

Who wants to move to Las Vegas?

Zappos did another thing – they decided to move from a major business center to a relatively peripheral city, Las Vegas, which sounds like a strange decision, but Zappos realized that their competitive advantage is not among employees in US business centers. After an in-depth examination, the management concluded that what they are looking for are call center employees who seek occupational stability and a sense of purpose.

Surprisingly, this decision did not deter most employees. Seventy percent of the company’s employees left their previous place of residence and moved with them to Las Vegas. In doing so, they also created an organizational community of employees who support each other with deep and meaningful relationships at work and after work.

Zappos’s decisions are consistent with Daniel Pink’s motivation theory. Pink, a journalist and lecturer, author of the bestseller Drive, relies on no less than four decades of scientific research. He argues that there are three key elements that comprise employee motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose. According to Pink, where employees earn decent and fair wages, maintaining these three elements will most definitely motivate employees to do their job in the best possible way.

The relocation formed an organizational community of employees who support each other with deep and meaningful relationships at work and after work. An ideal situation that came to be thanks to a prudent and bold decision.

(image by Freepik)

Control, sense of success and dedication

By stating that autonomy, mastery and purpose will make your employees committed and engaged, Pink actually says that we, as managers, must provide our employees with three tools to make them feel significant:

He calls the first element of Autonomy Support – namely, allowing your employees to control as many aspects of their work as possible. From choosing where to perform their tasks, to choosing how to perform them.

The second element is the development of Mastery. Pink explains that employees seek to improve their performance. Extremely difficult tasks may discourage people and make them give up, very minor tasks can be equally discouraging. Therefore, Pink recommends allowing employees to perform tasks at their own pace and slightly above that. That is, to examine your employees’ capabilities and let them perform tasks that require just a little more than their knowledge and experience. For this they must be supported and guided so that they may experience success which will then motivate them even more.

The last and most obvious element is cultivating a sense of purpose. What gets you out of bed in the morning without resenting another day’s work? Is it the tasks you need to accomplish or the purpose of your work? It is most likely the latter. Purpose drives people more than tasks. It’s about a connection between the tasks, the people and the company’s values. As an example, a hospital nurse would probably not get as motivated by thinking about the many patients she would have to tend to in a day’s work, as she would by the thought of the comfort and wellbeing she is going to provide today.

Pink and the scientific studies he refers to in his book never mention the Carrot and Stick Approach – penalties and bonuses as significant motivators –  nevertheless, most companies still use that same approach to motivate their employees. Each organization has its own business and management characteristics and therefore the implementation of these three elements in each organization will be different and unique. Click here for Daniel Pink’s talk about motivation.

How can you generate internal and long-term motivation among your employees? Implementing these three elements in your organization is the key and the first step.

Are you unsure as to how to best motivate your employees? Contact us to get a custom-tailored solution >>

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