Reelika Ein, Head of the People & Culture at INZMO - "Managers need to fuel the internal motivators of employees rather than buying happiness through free lunches at work."
Reelika Ein is a "friction fixer" organizational change and culture designer, a disruptor, looking for ways to tear down the outdated wall of beliefs inside organizations and among their leaders.
Reelika has studied leading innovation, managing remote and hybrid teams at Stanford University, business administration, organizational behavior, and management of creative teams. Reelika has over 15 years of experience in leadership quality, corporate culture development, and change management.
We discussed how we could drive employees' internal motivation, what are the essential elements on the road toward being internally motivated, and much more.
I advise you to hold onto your seats, as Reelika will cause turbulence throughout the interview!
Reelika, how can a manager influence the motivation of their employees?
Sports compensation, free meals, and nap rooms. I mean, really, this is ridiculous, and I haven't seen a single employee leave because there was no sports compensation. Cushy employee perks are a famous part of the startup culture, while at the same time, they have little relevance to employee motivation.
First, it's important to remember that all people have internal and external motivators. The most common understanding of or approach to a motivation system is based on external motivators.
However, when motivating employees, managers should put more focus on internal motivation factors. For example, if a percentage of an employee's salary is taken away from them, someone else's recognition is no substitute. Pay is a hygiene factor, i.e., it must be guaranteed at an acceptable level and pay people enough, so that money as a topic is off the table.
That's why managers need to fuel the internal motivators of employees rather than buying happiness through free lunches at work.
At INZMO, we encourage employees to negotiate their salary if they feel it is below their expectations or labor market levels. We want to pay our employees the highest base wage level in the sector.
The manager is better positioned to motivate employees through internal incentives. Internal motivation is like a dependent state. However, internal motivation factors receive very little attention.
It can be a "mindset disorder". There have been several studies on why we underutilize internal motivators.
For example, in one study, executives were asked to rate how motivating different aspects of their work were to them:
- External motivation factors (reward, material rewards, job security).
Half of the respondents had to rate how motivating these aspects were for them. The other half were asked to rate how motivating these aspects are for others.
In their case, internal motivators were more critical. However, external motivators were thought to work more for others.
This is the dysfunction of the mindset, and this result is repeated consistently in other experiments. So that is why we create motivational systems that rely primarily on external motivators. We think that we know what motivates others, such as handing out free lunches at work and hoping that this keeps people motivated and makes them stay loyal to the company. But this isn't true at all! Free meals in the office, sporting compensations, and other perks won't fix the shortcomings in the organizational culture built on the wrong foundation!
Could you please share some ways managers could increase internal motivation?
Everyone is willing to work harder if they can decide for themselves. Studies show that greater autonomy leads to better performance and satisfaction, and people are more persistent. It is crucial when leading innovation and innovative work.
There is a counterargument though: you cannot give autonomy to an incompetent worker. A manager who uses autonomy as a motivational tool must be a good coach. Remember to apply this to new employees.
We want to feel that we are getting better at work and have opportunities for self-development. Training is one way, but learning on the job is a powerful motivator. It seems so natural, but research shows that the mastery factor is the one that gets the least attention from employers of the four. So please keep it focused because it probably needs more investment from you.
1. People work harder when they feel they are learning something and getting better at something.
2. Simple questions managers should ask: what tasks do employees enjoy? Which employees feel challenged enough by the job?
3. People who feel they are learning on the job perform better and have higher job satisfaction.
4. People who learn nothing do as much as they need to, but no more: we must ensure that employees still feel they are learning something at work. Each task should give the employee a 20% chance to learn something new.
A learning culture starts with top management.
A sense of cohesion is most challenging in virtual teams because the contact between people is not strong enough due to distance. We can break this down into three separate points.
1. Relationships. We did a 10-minute experiment in the workshop with the Fast Friends exercise. This is a very effective exercise, and it has always proven to be very effective for building interpersonal contact.
What is the phenomenon of this exercise? In order to establish good interpersonal contact, it is necessary to be vulnerable, to feel that we have shared our thoughts and that we are accepted. As a result, people think that they understand each other better. At a distance, it isn't elementary to feel understood. The game is, therefore, particularly well-suited to virtual teams because it creates a reasonable basis for contact as we share personal views.
Do one-on-ones. Unless we are threatened by something, we share a lot, and that's what these questions are based on during the exercise. The remarkable thing is that this exercise is not a one-way street, but both of you share personal details, and that's where the contact comes from. There is an authenticity to the exercise that people value.
2. Responsibility. We often only emphasize what is essential to the individual, not what is important to others. For example, in the case of a goal, we could underline how the employee's contribution makes something better for someone else.
3. Recognition. Only give recognition if you provide one-to-one feedback and specify what you are giving credit for, and always precisely describe what you are acknowledging. For example, simply saying "Well done!" does not have the expected effect because people do not know what behavior, attitude, or action to reinforce.
Recognition is often public, and it is only advisable to give public recognition if it's identifiable to others. Otherwise, a colleague may think they did the same thing but were not recognized, like their teammate. It can do a lot of damage to a team. If you need to figure out how other team members might react, opt for one-to-one conversations instead.
Recognition from a colleague can be even more impactful because it has no ulterior motive. It is as if the manager has a duty to recognize, but the colleague doesn't.
First, it is necessary to demonstrate everyone's contribution to the goal by describing their strengths, skills, and contribution. In other words, simply presenting the objectives to the employee does not guarantee ownership. Instead, everyone needs to feel they have a role to play in achieving it, and this responsibility must be recognized. Start by building a good connection with your people and bring clarity on expectations you have towards them.
Could you please share some tips on how this can be done?
Take the time to build up a good rapport. For example, check-in meetings on other topics or "How are you doing?". The most important thing is to make it a routine. For remote working, a virtual lunch together is one of the possibilities. Such check-in calls and meetings need a systematic approach at the beginning. It will develop into a habit in about three weeks.
As a manager, set an example for your staff, for instance, by letting them know when you will be taking breaks. Show that employees have the same opportunity. Particular attention needs to be paid to agreeing on working norms/principles when working remotely. Otherwise, employees will not know what behavior is expected of them. For example, these principles should be communicated to the new employee immediately at the start of induction.
INZMO is one of the fastest growing insurtech startups in Europe helping people to protect their rental homes and belongings. The company is also the No. 1 providing zero-deposit solutions for EU renters.
We're on a mission to be the worlds most customer-centric insurance company with a simple mission to remove all "ugly" in insurance.
We believe the core innovation lies in understanding customer needs, struggles and their values. We design our services around this purpose - this is what makes us authentic. We put the customer first. Always. We think big, take risks, innovate constantly, hire the best and put high efforts to earn customers trust.
We are the forth-runner in insurance innovation and set the new standard. With more than 70,000 customers and over 400% growth in 2022, INZMO has acquired the recognition and investments from several insurers in Europe. In 2017, the company was recognised as the best fin-tech company in the StartUp Europe Awards by European Commission and in 2019 awarded as the Insurance Shaper of the Year.
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