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Putting People First to Increase Motivation and Performance

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Focusing on the motivation of individuals can positively impact performance according to Peter van Oevelen, managing director of TriFinance. It also supports people to take their career in their own hands and to attract talented people which want to work for your organization.

At the Dare Festival Antwerp 2014 Peter gave the talk putting people first in which he shared his experiences with approaches for renewed human development.

InfoQ interviewed Peter about motivating individuals, influencing the mood of teams, applying radical management, economies of motivation and building effective teams with individuals that have their own ideas, preferences and motivations.

InfoQ: Why should organizations give attention to the motivation of individuals, what makes it so important?

Peter: There is a multitude of reasons why organizations should focus on motivation of individuals. First and most important, several studies have shown the positive impact of motivation on their performance. Motivation and engagement account for a significant part of the productivity. But there are also a number of more indirect reasons. In the new era that we are working in, there is a scarcity of talents. More and more, individuals of the new generations are no longer willing to work for organizations that don’t take their needs and motivation into account. For an organization it will therefore be of utmost importance that its employer branding is such that it can easily attract and hire new people. Neglecting motivation of its workforce will be (literally) paid cash by an organization.

InfoQ is researching what influences the mood of agile teams. What is your view on this?

Peter: As in any team, trust is the primary element. Trust leading to open and constructive communication, eventually leading to better team results. Next to trust, the space to organize themselves in their working as a team, in absence of strict hierarchical structures and predefined, definitely brings a better mood in a team.

InfoQ: At the Dare Festival you talked about the principles of radical management. Can you elaborate on this?

Peter: Steve Denning launched the terminology radical management a few years ago as a new way of managing organizations. Although we have not implemented it as such, the philosophy contains quite some elements that are of great value and widely used within our company.

The principles are not completely new, but Denning provides them a set of changes compared to traditional management, changes in the goal of the organization (from making money for the shareholders to delighting customers), the role of managers (from controlling employees to enabling self-steering teams), the way work is organized (from bureaucracy to self-organization), in values (from efficiency driven to a broader set of values) and in communication style (from top-down to horizontal)

At TriFinance we agree with the above and we go even a bit further with respect to the goal of the organization, as we want to be a “destination finding platform” for our employees, in this way putting our people and their commitment first. We have an active non-retention policy. This doesn’t mean we want people to leave us sooner rather than later, but we stimulate them to think about their future within our company but also outside the company. They stay with us as long as they can grow, thus always looking for growth opportunities. We don’t have predefined career paths but through the use of our Living MeInc platform, they create their next destination. The Living MeInc system is not a mere competence management system, but is enriched with people’s preferences and ambitions.

InfoQ: Can you briefly explain what economies of motivation are, and why you think they matter?

Peter: We introduced the concept of Economies of Motivation ® as we are convinced that it has more sustainable impact than the long standing principle of economies of scale. Any decision taken should be measured against both economies of scale as economies of motivation, i.e. if the positive outcome of economies of scales are offset by the negative impact on the motivation of the teams, the global net result will be negative. In too many decisions the latter is not taken into account, mistakenly.

Our way of working, providing space and support to the modern professional (the MeInc®-er), inspires and leads to higher motivation to these MeInc®-ers, resulting in better performance towards our clients. As said, there are no predefined career paths. People are creating careers themselves making use of the Living MeInc system and guided by a coach. The fact that we trust our people to discuss next steps even outside of our own company, gives them the opportunity to really take their career in their own hands. Needless to say that this feeling of having your future in your own hands leads to higher motivation.

“Furthering people for better performance” and “Growth through the growth of people” are serving as real baselines in our story.

Teams and collaboration are often considered to drive results. But we are all individuals, with our own ideas, preferences and motivations. Can we build effective teams with individuals? How?

Peter: It may seem like a paradox, but it isn’t. It is somewhat counter-intuitive, but focusing on the individual does not stand in the way of teamwork. Increasingly, professionals see their careers as a sequence of interesting projects and they acknowledge the value of teamwork also in their own development. As professionals move away from traditional ladder careers, where success is indicated by promotions, they are seeing more and more growth and development as success indicators.

We can build teams around a set of shared objectives, or even stronger around a same story. The individual’s objectives should be aligned with the team’s objectives. But next to building teams, we also see teams emerging when a group of people take responsibility and accountability for the objectives, the mission or the story of the group. In practice anyone can organize a knowledge circle around a topic or a specific domain. In some cases these knowledge circles lead to the emergence of expert teams (still without an agenda or a guideline from the company). The expert team around Process improvement e.g. transformed in the meantime in a real Business Unit within our global portfolio of business units.

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