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Human Spirit and Work

Human spirit and work is concerned with tapping into the employee’s intrinsic motivation. The knowledge worker, as I pointed out in Chap. 8, responds best to three dimensions of motivation: having some autonomy to make their own decisions; understanding the bigger purpose of what they do; and being given an opportunity to develop their skills-set. Reward and punishment; that is, extrinsic motivational tactics still have their place—particularly when it comes to unskilled and semi-skilled workers. But for the skilled worker, extrinsic rewards, such as adequate pay and conditions, won’t engage human spirit with work. An agile workplace is likely to be characterized by a core of intrinsically motivated individuals.

Furthermore, a highly motivated workforce is resilient, adaptive, and flexible in the face of a hyper-competitive and tumultuous marketplace. Companies are screaming out for employees who are enterprising, able to think for themselves, understand the bigger picture, and want to master their craft. Using a competitive salary and good working conditions to generate excitement and enthusiasm never was—and never will be—the ultimate motivational force.

Innovation and processing speed, continuous improvement, and problemsolving are dimensions of agility that directly profit from engaged employees. An intrinsically motivated employee will, for instance, question the relevance of work practices used. If necessary, the engaged employee then will search for new and better ways to get the job done. Why are we doing it this way? Is there a better way? are the questions they think about. Instead, a satisfied employee isn’t as enthusiastic to take ownership of improving workplace methods.

Mastery—one of the three dimensions of intrinsic motivation Dan Pink speaks about in his book, Drive—is also a type of improvement. The quest for mastery involves continuously improving oneself; in a word, self-improvement. Self-mastery and refining the business environment is characteristic of a high-performing business. It gives the enterprise an edge. To have this competitive edge, a company needs a critical mass of employees with their human spirit invested in their work. A dispirited employee, or even one that’s reasonably satisfied, won’t have the same intrinsic drive for self-mastery.

People with their human spirit nourished by the work they do is an obviously benefit. They enjoy coming to work, being productive, and having resilience—all attributes that most of us seek in ourselves and others.

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