Enriching an employee’s job can be a strong intrinsic motivator … but only if done correctly.
When I was a young professional fresh out of college, job enrichment was once used as a strong motivator for me: I’d been selling print advertising for a year or two in several annual B2B tradeshow publications. Certainly I was a little bored when my boss approached me with a new assignment. She explained that a particularly important client had asked our company to handle a project we had little experience with. I had been chosen to take this on and would be breaking new ground. While I was still deciding whether to be flattered or frightened, the head of the company came by to talk with me more about the project. When he finished, there was no question—I was flattered, intrigued and challenged—and over the coming weeks dove in with enthusiasm.
This is an example of job enrichment used correctly as an intrinsic motivator. If my employer had given me this project too early, I might not have been equipped to take it on. If they had waited too long, I might have already moved on.
But simply giving an employee more to do is not enriching his or her job. True job enrichment refers to vertical changes.
Here’s a review of intrinsic motivators noted by author Frederick Herzberg:
- Recognition of achievement
- The work itself
- Opportunity for advancement
As I look back on this job experience from my 20s, I see just how perfectly my boss and the head of our company used motivating principles to keep me pushing forward.
- My successful handling of the specialized project would make me the resident expert—an opportunity for growth and achievement.
- They were removing established controls so I would need to take complete responsibility for the outcome.
- They were giving the entire project to me … including interaction with the important client—making the work itself more varied at a time when I was feeling bored.
- I would be reporting on my progress not just to my boss, but the head of the company as well—an opportunity to be recognized.
There is an ebb and flow to an employee’s motivation. And if you’ve been a manager long, you know that no two individuals respond the same way to obstacles, opportunities or incentives … making your job of keeping productivity high and getting the best from each person a constant challenge.
Finding ways to make an employee’s job more personally rewarding can be a strong motivator in the right situation … with the right person. Are there responsible young or new workers on your team who seem bored or who are becoming disengaged? While some people do thrive with a heavier workload, simply adding extra tasks is not job enrichment. Job enrichment is when you loosen the controls and offer opportunities to grow, gain recognition and break new ground.