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Got Them Healthcare Blooze: motivation the rock’n’roll way

Picture of leaping guitarist.It's been a while since Peter wrote for FHIT, but he's back. You can also read some of his previous entries. Let's rock!

‘I was looking for a job, then I found one. Heaven knows I’m miserable now’. How often have you heard these words for real in the workplace? Poor morale and motivation account for massive waste in effort, costs and profits in even the most successful organisations. So what can Morrissey, Minztberg, Meatloaf, Maslow, Motorhead, Madonna et al teach us about how to create a work climate and culture that rocks? In the book ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’ I explore classic ideas about motivation through a rich mix of great academic thinking ‘tamed’ with the pithy wisdom of rock and pop culture. Let’s start with a look at the Blues.

Can’t buy me love?
Most Blues songs begin: ‘Woke up this morning’ and then move on to motivational problems such as ‘The landlord wants to repossess my home’ or ‘My woman left me’.

In the modern workplace, you cannot have a Blues that goes ‘Woke up this morning, the server was down’ or ‘Woke up this morning, I got a good HR manager who self actualises me!’

Quite surprisingly, this cheesy contrast makes a great deal of practical sense. Frederick Herzberg pointed out the difference between those factors that merely remove dissatisfaction at work, e.g. pay, administration, supervision (called dissatisfiers) and those factors that encourage job satisfaction e.g. responsibility, advancement etc. (called satisfiers). Just think about those ‘fly like an eagle’ motivational posters in some hospital corridors. Yes, they are cheap, but they do not create workplace satisfaction.

Many reward systems only focus on removing dissatisfaction - it’s no surprise that they fail to motivate – just try doubling someone’s salary and notice how long they work twice as many hours! As Prince said ‘Money don’t buy you happiness, but it sho’ ‘nuff pays for the research.’ i.e. inadequate pay dissatisfies, but no amount of pay will produce long term job satisfaction. This is especially true for Generation Y and beyond, who crave much greater things from work today. Companies such as First Direct, B&Q and Prêt à Manger have learned this point well and surpass others with people who bring their heads, hearts and souls to work. The NHS is well positioned to offer people some Herzberg satisfiers e.g. career development, intrinsic job satisfaction etc.

Key point:review Hertzberg’s model in the book and ask yourself ‘How does our motivational strategy line up with his findings?

River deep, mountain high
Coming back to our Blues examples, repossession of the home and losing one’s lover are located towards the lower levels of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs i.e. shelter and belonging. Maslow crucially pointed out that there was a hierarchy of needs from physiological through to ego and self actualisation. So we really cannot have a Blues that starts ‘Woke up this morning, I got a good manager, who sets meaningful performance goals and leverages my talent in ways that provide long term career development tailored to my talents’ unless the basics are also in sufficient supply. As an aside, the lyric does not scan well either!

Key point:HR needs therefore to be not only strategic and visionary but also tactical and detail conscious in the way it motivates staff.

I want it all and I want it now
In a culture of mass individualisation, employees expect to be treated as individuals, yet many HR systems tend to treat them as a collective in the interests of fairness, equity and conflict avoidance.

Key point:personalisation is the key to individual motivation. This requires motivational systems that are responsive both in speed and flexibility. Ask your HR people to tell you how the HR system achieves these ambitions.

We gotta get out of this place
Blues can take place in New York City, but not in Newark. Hard times in Minneapolis or Canterbury is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues, not York, Bath or Slough. You can’t have no Blues in a shopping mall. The lighting is all wrong.

The physical and psychological environment are important components of motivation. Although working conditions are a Herzberg dissatisfier, poor working conditions really make for poor performance and, more importantly, these things are not so expensive to put right. Companies that recognise the contribution of the built environment on performance include Pfizer. However, as I pointed out earlier, décor is cheap but insufficient if people feel unable to do a good job. Furthermore, a pleasant work environment is no substitute for the least expensive and most effective motivator – behaviour that encourages others to give their all, which leads us to our last point…

I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that
I did a gig with Lorraine Crosby, who sang on Meatloaf’s classic song, but failed to discover what ‘that’ is in the context of the song, so we’ll concentrate on the ‘love’ part… Praise is the least expensive but highest value motivator. It merely takes time and must come from the heart.

Key point: the built environment helps people to feel good about work, but how people behave is crucial to long term motivation. Find ways to spot people doing things well and let them know about it.

You can buy Peter Cook, MD, Human Dynamics's book: Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll – Leadership Lessons from the Academy of Rock.

He is also speaking at a conference for the NHS Innovation Institute HR Network Scotland Conference on February 14 2008.

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