How much control is too much?
Is your organization’s hierarchy and perspective on control decreasing or shutting down motivation for your employees?
As the Head of HR or in your role as a manager of people, understanding how to wield control is critical to employee motivation. You need to get your motivational design right to unlock productivity.
Throughout the 1900s and early 2000s, companies with centralized control and tiered decision-making ruled in a an efficiency first, machine-like approach to winning. This evolved into an outcome driven approach, where good outcomes were reinforced at the total level of the company, irrespective of their impact on employee motivation.
In the 2010s and beyond, there is a trend toward decentralization, the empowerment of teams, and the removal of strict managerial controls on processes and team workflow. Could decentralization be the missing piece of unlocking the motivations of your best (and worst) employees?
Control and its impact on motivation
There are several types of control in the workplace that relate to employee motivation.
Control over one’s tasks and projects.
This is the amount of autonomy an employee feels she has or actually has in the choosing and the method of completion of tasks and projects. Traditionally, roles were put in silos for the sake of efficiency, and employees didn’t have much choice over the tasks to me be completed. In these cases, giving autonomy to employees on how they accomplish the tasks can improve motivation.
Control over HOW one performs her tasks and projects
As a leader, manager, or HR designer, if you have successfully gained buy-in from employees on the mission and/or vision of the team or company, then you can assign tasks by attaching the necessity of those tasks as part of accomplishing the mission and vision.
Then, you can give employees the freedom to explore the best ways to accomplish those tasks. In the Octalysis framework, this usually is done by giving employees a healthy does of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback. Tactically, this can be achieved by offering meaningful choices or even a blank slate of freedom.
To increase the intrinsic motivation, you could build sharing systems where employees share the knowledge of new ways they’ve found to do great work. This would play on Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness.
Control over career progression
As a designer of HR systems, you have the difficult but exciting task of monitoring many levers of motivation. One of these levers is career progression.
Control matters here, too.
How open and transparent is your organization in monetary or status development? What about growth by learning?
Your organization might have strict guidelines on what constitutes upward movement at the individual level. Maybe an employee needs to hit all their Key Performance Indicators.
Maybe there are intangibles: They need to be likable; They need to make work fun for others.
The trick is to make promotions really engaging.
Often, promotions focus too heavily on Black Hat design.
- Core Drive 6: Impatience & Scarcity: Hard to reach, but you want it
- Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity: Unclear who will get it
- Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance: “If I do not get it I lose all the progress I did leading up to it, and my effort was all for nothing
Why not add some White Hat Design?
Promotions are not just a title. Promotions can be empowering. When I get promoted, I get boosters, access, power.
Control over measurement of development and accomplishment
What is your company measuring at the level of the employee? Effort, results, creativity, influence on the team?
In forward thinking organizations, HR designers and teams often incorporate their employees in a discussion of what the metrics should be for productivity. This use of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, draws on the positive-feeling of collaboration and the problem-solving nature of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.
A discussion of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation relating to control
The Octalysis Group has consulted with and analyzed the HR structures and motivational designs of hundreds of companies across the healthcare, energy, government, and ecommerce landscape.
We have analyzed models which have limited controls and organizations that exercise strong controls. And everything in between.
How you use control affects employee motivation and ultimately team productivity.
Let us help you take the first step in understanding where you are using control in your overall employee motivation design. From there, we will unlock actionable insights to use a healthy balance of control and freedoms for good!
Let’s begin your analysis to remove control barriers and apply control where it will best impact your bottom line.