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Ignoring gifts: the company that undervalued motivation by £1+ million!

Do you underestimate the value of motivation?

Did you know that in the United Kingdom, workers are generally engaged for 38.5 paid hours per week? However, people tend to work 46.2 hours, gifting their organisations 7.6 hours of their time. This important article is about raising awareness of the value of motivation in your teams and protecting wellbeing in a world where people are working longer hours. Specifically, we want to help raise awareness of how employee motivation creates value through gifted time.

the value of motivation

*This blog is an adaptation of "who will account for will" (Griffiths, Lewis & Healey-Benson, 2016)


Motivation makes or breaks organisations

People and their talent, attitudes skills and knowledge make or break an organisation because organisations rely on talent to compete and adapt in knowledge-driven Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) environments.

However, the value of talent is underpinned by motivation, which is often not understood or accounted for by organisations.

"it's all very well trying to enthuse somebody about the corporate mission, but if that's about improving earnings per share, then motivation can hit a glass ceiling" (Rock, 2016, p. 31).

In today's world of work, people are contributing or gifting organisations additional hours of work beyond their contracted hours or preferred extent of commitment. Time can be volunteered on the part of the individual or compelled by the organisation. In the former, there can be positive outcomes, for example, increased productivity, or, as with the latter, adverse consequences, such as burnout and related mental health issues.

Peak motivation comes from an internal drive brought about by the freedom to choose, and an individual's values, beliefs, standards, knowledge, skills and experience aligning with those of the organisation.

Ultimately, peak motivation is about free will, the free contribution of a person's mental or physical effort. With higher levels of motivation come the benefits gained through higher levels of engagement, involvement, creativity, loyalty, commitment, collaboration and productivity.

Amazon believes a disaffected employee has the potential to cost the business between $50,000 and $5000,000

In 2016 Price Waterhouse Cooper's Chief Financial Officer stated that staff turnover was seen as "dreadful", with 71% of 44,0000 employees complained that their jobs interfered with their personal lives. The problem is that people are asked to do more with less, which results in additional work beyond the expected contracted hours. Worryingly, there is increasing pressure upon employees to provide such hours at no cost. "In a snapshot survey of 1,000 [Institute for Leadership and Management] members, 94% admitted to working beyond their contracted hours each week, with…65% reportedly feeling pressure from their organisation to do so". There is a considerable opportunity here for leaders and managers to improve understanding of the links between motivation and the value of Human Capital. Human Capital being:

"people's competencies, capabilities and experience….loyalties and motivations for improving processes, goods and services, including their ability to lead, manage and collaborate" (p. IIRC, p. 12).

Ultimately, the challenge is to prove what most of us instinctively already know to be true; there is a positive relationship between how we manage people and their capacity to drive organisational performance.


The value of the willing worker: are you consciously blind?

Employees can act willingly (voluntarily) or unwillingly (involuntarily). The notion of voluntary and involuntary action is already considered within HR literature, for example McGregor's (1960) theory X (the unwilling worker) and theory Y (the willing worker). However, even when being willing, a person can be acting in error. For example, in experiencing an overwhelming passion for a cause, a person could volunteer or gift additional time to an organisation. Still, their actions could lead to stress or burnout. It brings us to wonder how many HR teams monitor the mental wellbeing of highly-committed employees? We are concerned that organisations are blind to the value being created by their staff and the consequences of overwork, created when people feel compelled to work additional hours. In looking at the links between employee motivation, HR awareness levels and value creation, we developed a Value Awareness matrix:

Motivation Value Awareness matrix
Value Awareness Matrix
  1. Consciously aware: A person volunteers time and the organisation has an awareness of the value of such time. Here an employee appears to be aligned with the organisation's purpose and gifts time of their own free will. The organisation needs to continue to monitor the environment to protect against the gift of free will reaching a tipping point, from volunteering to involuntary, potentially producing pain and resentment.

  2. Consciously blind: Here, the person is aligned with the purpose of the organisation and is gifting time of their own free will. However, the organisation lacks awareness of the value of this gift; they are aware of the additional time given, but it is taken for granted or undervalued. Here the organisation is vulnerable to changes that produce pain and resentment on the part of the employee.

  3. Consciously task-driven: A person feels compelled to give their time. The organisation, perhaps under productivity pressures, compels employees to provide additional time to tasks required to fulfil their role. The organisation is aware of the value of this time and therefore, consciously accepts the risk of talent loss as being lesser than immediate productivity needs.

  4. Unconsciously blind: A person feels compelled to give additional time, but the organisation is unaware of the consequences of the demands being placed upon employees or the value of such time. Such an organisation could struggle to develop a longterm advantage in VUCA environments.

Our hope is that our VM creates an opportunity for HR to open dialogue around levels of in/voluntary will (motivation) – in doing so they can react and/or anticipate needs that could impact the organisaiton's most valuable asset, people. Importantly, it presents an opportunity for HR to influence an organisation's leadership and management teams to increase understanding of the value of gifted time. The VAM can also help HR to sense levels of voluntary to involuntary actions, which could bring resentment, lower levels of engagement, involvement, creativity, commitment, loyalty, productivity, and, ultimately, a loss of critical talent.


Getting it wrong to the tune of £1 Million+

We tested the value of this opportunity two multinational organisations, with offices in the United Kingdom. We accessed to two pharmaceutical project management teams in the United Kingdom offices of two multinational pharmaceutical sector organisations, Organisation AB and Organisation XY.

  • Project staff in both organisations generally considered themselves to be "efficient" or "very efficient" (83% in Organisation AB and 84% in Organisation XY). This feedback suggests that any additional hours required to fulfil tasks within a given role were needed to achieve agreed outcomes and are not a product of staff inefficiency.

  • Staff in AB worked 6.25 hours beyond their contracted hours, and XY reported 4.75 hours of additional hours worked.

  • Staff with 5+ years of experience worked, on average, 1 hour more/week than those with less experience.

  • The additional hours resulted in £5,705/week of unpaid time being gifted in Organisation AB or £285,250 per annum (based on 50 operational weeks).

  • In Organisation XY this translated to £3,157 per week or £157,850 per annum of unpaid - gifted - time. Organisation AB employs a total of over 500 project staff globally, which could produce a weekly gift of over £35,218 or £1,760,937 per annum.

  • Managers in both organisations estimated that project staff were only gifting 2 hours a week. Line manager perception of additional hours was £1825 per week in Organisation AB or £91,250 per annum, a perception gap of £194,000. If this is consistent across the organisation, line managers in AB undervalue the contribution of project staff by £1,197,437.

  • Within Organisation AB 50 of 60 and 41 of 48 respondents in XY felt "compelled" or "highly compelled" to give extra time to the organisation.

  • In Organisation AB 4 of 5 staff felt "highly undervalued" or "somewhat undervalued".

  • In Organisation XY 3 in 5 felt "highly undervalued" or "somewhat undervalued".

  • In Organisation XY 29 of 48 project staff reported feeling "resentful" or "somewhat resentful" toward the organisation.


What is the value of motivation?

Would you be happy in finding out too late that people in your organisation were gifting you £1,197,437 of additional time but were feeling resentful?

If you want to to understand motivation and optimise engagement, involvement, commitment, creativity, productivity and loyalty in your organisation, then ask yourself:

  • what could you do to become more aware of the value being created by your teams?

  • what do you want to do?

  • and what will you do?


Motivation, like sensemaking, starts with you understanding yourself, your identity, and how you find meaning, belonging and achievement in the world.

If you want to know more about how to improve your team's motivation, join us for a Good Walk, a Good Workshop or drop us a line to learn about our bespoke coaching programme.


you are your life's work

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Thank you,

good life work project

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