Want to Motivate Employees? Let Them See Who Their Work Benefits

Last Updated Mar 1, 2010 5:38 PM EST

Does your staff interact with the people who benefit from their work on a regular basis? If not, you might want to consider ways to let them know who they are serving. According to a recent Knowledge@Wharton article, this can be an important key for motivation.

"Putting a Face to a Name: The Art of Motivating Employees" examines the research of Wharton management professor Adam Grant, which deals with the link between motivation and seeing the recipients of one's work. Among the examples:

  • After university fundraisers met scholarship recipients who benefitted from their fundraising calls during a 5-minute session, they brought in a weekly average of $503.22, compared to their previous average of $185.94.
  • Lifeguards who read testimonials about people who had been helped by lifeguards performed better than those who read literature about the personal rewards of being a lifeguard.
  • University career center workers who briefly met the student they were helping and read his personal statement of financial difficulty spent 20 percent more time editing the student's cover letter than the workers who only met the student or read his statement.
The article stresses the significance of this research in an environment where more and more work is done remotely and many personnel don't see the end user. As Grant states:
Technology is this really fascinating double-edged sword. On one hand, we have more and more ability to connect employees to end users from a different geographic region.... But on the other hand, technology has also reduced the need for face-to-face interaction. A lot of organizations stop short of making this sort of connection because the work can get done without it.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Donnaphoto, CC 2.0.
  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.