Jason Fried- an entrepreneur and author, has talked a lot about the productivity of well furnished corporate offices going down. In general, we expect people to respond to pecuniary incentives in a positive manner; but the reality is different. To understand the reality, let’s focus on the two wrong assumptions that we always make.
Our first assumption is that if we increase the salary of employees, they should feel better and hence productivity should go up. However, the research suggests something else. It says that given the increased monetary incentives, people work with more enthusiasm and energy if the work is something on which they are already skilled at. As long as the task doesn’t require creativity or out of the box approach, people perform better. But as and when the task requires new approach, the performance of people with increased monetary benefits, goes down. On a first look this fact might look weird but if you observe carefully it’s simple. When we see money as the end result, we are externally driven and our focus gets narrower. If we know what exactly we need to do we try our best to do it. In case we need to do planning or be creative, we get worse as money limits the different dimensions we can think. Unfortunately there are many jobs in this world which require good amount of thought. If you don’t have it until now, this is the time to move on.
Our second assumption is that an individual doesn’t add any value to a task except the fact that he/she finishes it. Therefore we expect the employees to do an assigned task in a defined way and rarely encourage them to do it entirely in a different manner. Today’s world is all about ideas and it is obvious that good ideas cannot come in to our minds if we are sitting in a confined space. Also, every person thinks differently. Some of us get the good ideas when we wake up, some while listening music, some while walking. It varies from person to person. Not everyone can come up with brilliant ideas in the meeting rooms. Now one might argue what if people collect their ideas wherever they get and discuss them in the meetings. The point is when people work for 8-10 hours in office, they have no energy left to think about the work when they are outside office. They have their personal lives.I think that’s the key point here. If people keep thinking their work as a responsibility, they can no longer enjoy their work and hence produce outstanding results. Therefore finding the right people for a job is very important. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge one has, it is about whether he/she enjoys the job or not. That’s the only thing that matters in producing great results.
As we have gone wrong with our assumption, the actions that we have taken to nurture the employees are imprecise. Although we say that employees are assets to an organization but we don’t treat them as assets and give them enough freedom. This is the main reason why the attrition rate of most companies is high and many people are starting their own businesses. Do the companies pay less? Definitely not. What people want is- work satisfaction, do what they really like and freedom of work. Once they start their own business, they work harder than before and hence become more productive. This simple concept if companies start to understand they will perform well beyond their current potential. Google is a nice example where the employees are given 20% of the time to do whatever they like to do. Many interesting projects of the company have come from this twenty percent spare time. Just gives an impression how simple things can make a big difference at any level.
With time, the corporate world will change its strides. But in India, that time is quite far away. It will be interesting to see how the organizations prepare themselves to face these challenges and provide the high levels of employee satisfaction to match the international benchmarks.