Meaningful Work as a Motivator

I have experienced many people in middle management who have a delema over whether to provide training and how much budget to set aside. All to often there has been an unwillingness to invest in people and sometimes there is just an expectation that no training is ever necessary.

There is a now legendary comment from such a person in management:

Manager: “What if I train all my people and they leave”

Agile coach: “What if you dont train your people and they all stay!”

If you train your people in the skills that they need to keep up to date with the advances in software development and the changes in business practices, then they are more capable of doing their work effectively. The more investment the more potential for value returned to the business.

If you train people and they still leave, then they were already planning to leave and all training has done is bring the bigger problem to a head. A good manager would see this as an opportunity to understand and eliminate the root cause of people leaving. A poor manager would end up making all the team leave (until his manager fired him).

No time to train - the classic excuse

Manager: “You cant go on a training course now, we have projects to deliver”

One of the most abused excuses for not training your employees is time. It is not just the financial cost of the course, but to management they see the cost of someone not being in the office.

This unfortunately is a fundamental misunderstanding of how productive people are without the correct stimulus. It is also a sign of command and control in action, limiting the productivity of the employees.

By denying training you are saying that people you employ have limited value and you only care about today. This demotivates employees and is a trigger for them to start looking else where for employment.

No training = Demotivated teams

If you dont train people then you will be left with a team that is becoming steadily demotivated and less and less productive.

You will be in the situation that you get less done for the same amount of investment. You will not be able to easily ramp up productivity and even introducing good practices will be a struggle as your employees become more embittered.

In more extreme cases this can lead to employees working negatively against the company because they have lost all empathy.

Cultural demotivation

The culture of an organisation can be quite demotivating, not just because there is a lack of training budget, but also in the type of work people are tasked with. It is far to common for people to be given “meaningless” work - tasks that they know are either pointless (creating reports that arent read, software that is never used) or tasks for which they are not able to understand the purpose (how it fits in with the company vision - if they have actually been told the company vision).

I feel “self learning” is important, being confident that you can learn and adapt your thinking and understanding of a situation as it changes. You do need to be positively motivated to be a self-learner - or at least not de-motivated by an organisation.

In the past I have experienced a de-motivating culture where no one could really explain or understand why the daily tasks we were all doing were important to the company. This lead to a disconnect for many of us and there was a bit of a mass exodus when we realised there were companies out there where we would be doing more “meaningful” work.

Thank you.

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