You’re a business manager. Regardless of your core business, like most managers you have some overarching goals: getting your employees to produce as much as they can, and maintaining your client base.
Well, how are you going to your motivate employees? You have limited avenues. There’s remuneration: do this, you can tell them, and you will be paid more. You can also threaten: do this, or you’ll lose your (fill in the blank).
But, as I’m sure deep down you know, employee motivation is a lot more than that: it’s about you, the manager. Yes, according to recent research, you – or more specifically, your behaviour – are a key determinant of employee performance. This is especially true of your most valuable employees, the highly ethical ones who are going to present the company’s positive face to the world.
These are the employees who believe in what they’re doing and what they’re selling, and they want to see the same conviction and energy from the people handing them their pay checks. To them, it isn’t just about the pay or prestige. What these employees want to see from management is a commitment to service and product quality. Reflect that energy, and their productivity will soar, and their loyalty will grow. Fail to demonstrate that you care, and neither will they.
That loyalty, termed “Organization Commitment” by those who study it, has in the last 2-3 decades seen increasing interest from the business academic community. One of their more interesting contributions has been to break the idea down to a general model encompassing 3 sub-categories: Affective Commitment, Continuity Commitment and Normative Commitment.
Do you like your company as an organization? The employee with Affective Commitment does. This is the employee who loves the work environment, feels that the company’s values are theirs, and whose bragging positive feedback about their workplace experience to friends and colleagues results in you getting a steady trickle of motivated and qualified job-seekers. It’s also why hiring the right people is important: employees who don’t share your values aren’t going to reflect this enthusiasm.
Affective Commitment feeds into our next commitment category: Continuity Commitment. Maybe you love your company, maybe you don’t, but are you planning on staying with it? The employee with high Continuity Commitment says yes. Obviously, Affective Commitment (loving the company) helps, but it isn’t the only reason why someone would stay. Sometimes your company is simply well located for the employee’s personal situation, or the employee doesn’t have anywhere else to go. In those cases, Continuity Commitment can have a negative impact on productivity: you can have employees who do choose to remain, but actively disparage your company in private.
(See: the Wally character in any Dilbert strip)
This can be tied to the two qualities we’ve just talked about. Employees with Normative Commitment may not love their company (Affective) and they may not be committed to staying around long-term (Continuity) but they are determined to finish what they started and treat their company respectfully. They aren’t going to quit abruptly; they aren’t going to simply abandon their projects. They feel a sense of obligation to the place that gave them a job, and they are determined to treat it well.
These, at least, are the emerging trends indicated in academic research. And these commitment types all trace back to you. As these studies show, employee consciousness of the employer’s commitment to both them and product/service quality results in huge organizational benefits. Not only will you have a cheerful office (Affective), but you will have employees who produce move, stay longer (Continuity) show a bright and proactive face to the world (Affective), exhibit a sense of duty to the company (Normative), and remain your company’s quiet advocates even after they’ve departed from your payroll (Normative). Best of all, you can achieve all of this without throwing money around or threatening sackings. And that, truly, is a win-win.
Frederick J. Slack, John N. Orife, and Fred P. Anderson, “Effects of Commitment to Corporate Vision on Employee Satisfaction with Their Organization: An Empirical Study in the United States,” International Journal of Management 27, no. 3 (2010)
Ping He, Suzanne K. Murmann, and Richard R. Perdue, “Management Commitment and Employee Perceived Service Quality: The Mediating Role of Affective Commitment,” Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship 17, no. 3 (2012)
Ruth W. Grant, Strings Attached: Untangling the Ethics of Incentives (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012)