Welcome to the house of fun

Apr 30, 2007

Individuals can be recruited and trained to do just about anything. The key is motivation. Motivation doesn’t depend on a model workforce and charismatic managers nor does it require your work to be exciting or glamorous.

A survey of 1,000 employees by Dr Kenneth Kovach ranked their needs in the workplace in order of preference. Their 100 immediate supervisors ranked the same needs, based on what they thought their employees would say. The results were as follows:

Interesting work
Employees 1st: Managers 5th

Full appreciation for work done
Employees 2nd: Managers 8th

Feeling involved
Employees 3rd: Managers 10th

Job security
Employees 4th: Managers 2nd

Good wages
Employees 5th; Managers 1st

Promotion / growth opportunities
Employees 6th: Managers 3rd

Good working conditions
Employees 7th: Managers 4th

Personal loyalty to workers
Employees 8th: Managers 6th

Tactful disciplining
Employees 9th: Managers 7th

Sympathetic help with personal problems
Employees 10th: Managers 9th

Pay ranks only at No.5 yet it is the only carrot offered by most employers. While pay is a driving force in many successful organisations, a sense of meaningful purpose, involvement and appreciation is even more important for many people.
A work environment that encourages fun is characterised by positive energy, high self-esteem, and team spirit. People feel alive and want to give their best efforts to the task. Motivation increases and spontaneity thrives which in turn nurtures and sustains a priceless commodity that might be termed employee “want to.”

While you can’t achieve “want to” by ordering people to enjoy themselves, a willingness to trust and empower your team to create a fun environment will increase your sales and improve your customer service.

Measuring motivation

To create the right environment, it’s a good idea to periodically establish how well motivated your team are. You can assess the level of motivation using three broad measures:

– Staff turnover: If you have a stable team, it’s usually an indication that they’re happy. But if people are leaving at a rapid rate, you can be pretty certain they’re not happy.
Measure the number of established staff who leave voluntarily, and compare your figure against your industry average.

– Absenteeism: People who rarely take sick leave are probably happy at work. Everyone knows that a good proportion of sick days have nothing to do with illness.

– Taking the mickey: If people are happy and well motivated they are far less likely to cheat you or take the mickey. If they feel the business is exploiting or cheating them, they are more likely to cheat in compensation.

This can take many forms, for example bumping up expense claims, lots of private phone calls or emails at work and being generally unproductive. This is ingrained in the culture of some organisations, especially where fun at work is an alien concept. It demonstrates that exploiting your staff is counter-productive in the long term.

Create a culture of fun in the workplace

Once you accept that your work environment can and should be fun and you measure up well on the assessment factors, you should do what you can to create a culture of fun, for which the rules have to come from the top.

Organisation is another major factor. If people are overworked or behind, they will be stressed and may become ill. It is important to set realistic goals and provide competent direction and the resources to support achievement of the goals. Given this structure, even the most challenging work can be fun and not stressful.

It is just as important to never run people into the ground. Some seem to love their work so much that they have no social life and they never seem to go home. As commendable as this may seem to be on one level, it is also not something to be proud of.

Work fanatics must be made to take a break for their own sakes and for the sake of their work because nobody can work well and be truly motivated if they’re run down and exhausted from working long hours.

Recruit people with a sense of fun

Once the basics are in place, you can start to enliven your workplace by recruiting staff who are naturally creative and bring a sense of fun to their work. This takes no more effort than normal recruitment. You just add a few fun touches.

– Make sure that a sense of humour is on your list of character and competency criteria for the job;

– Rewrite the job description to reflect the skills and attributes of individuals who use fun as a means for being successful;

– Take a fun and unconventional approach to finding candidates. Use outrageous words and graphics to attract a more lighthearted yet qualified candidate;

– Conduct your interviews in a more informal and fun atmosphere;

– Ask situation questions that require the candidate to describe how they managed in different, challenging workplace scenarios;

– Involve individuals in the interviewing from the department where the new recruit will be working;

– Ask the candidate about their ‘ideal’ workplace;

– Ask the candidate to describe how they would bring energy to the company and to their work;

– Propose to the candidate an opportunity to test the job by working for a day or two before finally contracting;

– Of course, maintain your procedures for testing and reference checking.

If you can make the recruitment process itself fun, you will attract and retain candidates who feel most comfortable in a work culture where fun is expected.

Measure your progress with attitude surveys

A good barometer of staff motivation is to survey people directly on what they think of their jobs. Ideally these should be carried out each year. Questions should be easy to understand and the survey should not be too long and tedious. The questions should establish how far each person agrees or disagrees with a range of propositions.

To be effective, the survey itself should be anonymous because people will not be honest if they think they can be found out.

One person should be in charge of receiving and compiling the results and they should destroy all returns afterwards so it is clear to everyone that senior management could not see who said what.

Your results will give you a benchmark against which you can measure your success from year to year, and the results should be published to your team.

For more information, visit www.dspconnect.com

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