Wharton management professor Adam Grant has devoted his career to examining what motivates employees in the workplace. No matter the industry or job he says employees who know their work have a positive impact on others, are happier, and more productive than those who don’t.
One experiment studying fundraisers at a public university’s call center quantifies just how much more productive an employee can be. To motivate callers to stay on the phone and raise donations, Grant introduced some to a scholarship student who benefitted from their work. What happened? The callers who met the student spent two times as many minutes on the phone on each call than those with no student contact. What’s more, those who met the student brought in a weekly average of $503.22, compared to $185.94 for other callers.
I understand how connecting with a person can serve as a powerful motivator. Early in my career when I worked as an auditor, I knew the information I provided was essential to investors, banks, and owners. Yet, I did not have the job satisfaction I desired. When I transitioned to wealth management, I realized it was the satisfaction I gained from interacting with clients one-on-one, and doing all I could to help them reach their goals, that was missing from my previous work.
Grant says establishing “task significance” is the key to motivating employees and that face-to-face interactions, however brief, are hugely beneficial. That’s certainly something that in our increasingly technology-driven world we–business owners and employees alike– should strive to remember.