The world of work, and our individual and collective place in it, has been continually shifting over the past hundred years. But with the current unprecedented global disruption, these shifts have become dramatic and jarring, seemingly redefining weekly what it means to work. Employee motivation has been thrust into the spotlight, and for good reason. People’s motives affect, at conscious and unconscious levels, the way they make sense of and respond to the world around them.
Values act as a lens – they color what we find important and motivating and determine which messages we find inspiring or distasteful. Leaders’ values are especially important in organizations, as they often set the standard for internal communication, impact company culture, and guide reward systems. Their values are conspicuous right now in the ways they communicate with their employees. Left unexamined, leaders’ communications may highlight values-based blind spots and fail to compel their intended audience.
For example, many leaders seem to be trying to inspire their organization by emphasizing the importance of the work itself, couching disruption as something that can and should be overcome, and speaking confidently about their ability to win and emerge triumphant, as seen here in this message from Jeff Bezos to Amazon employees. While these messages may align with that leader’s values regarding competition, winning, and comfort with risk, many individual contributors will not share those values to the same degree. At best such messages may fall flat with a large percentage of the workforce, and at worst they could be disengaging or seem out-of-touch.
In our research on values, as measured by the Motives, Values, and Preferences Inventory (MVPI), there are clear, noticeable differences between leader and individual-contributor populations in the types of communications they are likely to find compelling or aligned with their values. For example, across industries and job families and in comparison with individual contributors across all job families, leaders tend to score higher on Power (valuing authority, top-down influence, impact), lower on Security (valuing risk-taking, limit-testing, experimentation), lower on Altruism (valuing personal responsibility, self-reliance), and lower on Hedonism (valuing professional, formal work environments) than the average individual contributor. This suggests that if leaders could often provide more effective communications by managing their value-based blind spots; they may need to:
- Curtail the desire to invoke the language of war, winning, and beating the virus
- Broaden their perspective beyond work and consider issues related to work-life balance; emphasize collegiality and a whole-person focus
- Provide greater clarity on plans, tasks, and deadlines than they may do naturally
- Consider how their requests and directions impact the greater good; find more ways to illustrate the higher purpose and link their employees’ actions to beneficial outcomes for others
For example, the message to employees delivered by Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott, has received extensive positive media attention and provides values-based messages likely to resonate with a broad array of employees.
Understanding values is key to enabling leaders to connect with individual contributors in ways that are likely to inspire commitment, compel them to put forth discretionary effort, and provide them with a deeper sense of meaning. To learn more about the importance of values, and especially how to leverage values-based communications, join us at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28 for the webinar Leveraging Values to Keep individuals and Teams Engaged. During the webinar, we will dive deeper into values differences between managers and individual contributors and highlight common values differences across functions that may help managers target their communications for the greatest motivational impact.
This post was originally published on the Hogan Assessments blog.