You might have your eyes on the ultimate prize--a lucrative exit--but your employees need something else to keep them going.
For founders, the long hours and the instability of building a start-up are endurable because of the potential pay-off in the distance: a lucrative IPO that makes those early days worthwhile.
But Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor and author, writes in the Harvard Business Review that what motivates you is not necessarily what keeps your employees coming in day after day. Kanter says instead of dangling IPO dreams and money in front of your team, you should instead focus on giving them OPI--Opportunity for Positive Impact.
"Money can even be an irritant if compensation is not adequate or fair, and compensation runs out of steam quickly as a source of sustained performance," Kanter writes. "Instead, people happy in their work are often found in mission-driven organizations where people feel they have positive impact on social needs."
If your employees are working towards something important and meaningful, they will be motivated to come to work and more loyal to the team and mission. Kanter says real motivation requires what she refers to as "the three Ms"--mastery, membership, and meaning.
Make them masters.
Kanter says a boss needs to give their employees an opportunity to "develop deep skills" and become a master over their work. Employees take pride in learning, so give them the chance to learn a new skill with appropriate resources. "Even in the most seemingly routine areas, when people are given difficult problems to tackle, with appropriate and tools and support, they can do things faster, smarter, and better," she writes.
Make them members.
Membership cannot be confused with exclusivity--your job is to make everyone feel welcome. But you should build a friendly environment where employees interact across departments. "Create community by honoring individuality," she says. "Community solidarity comes from allowing the whole person to surface, which means going beyond superficial conformity to know what else people care about. Encourage employees to bring outside interests to work. Give them frequent opportunities to meet people across the organization to help them get to know one another more deeply."
Give their job meaning.
Your employees will be motivated only if their job matters to the larger whole. If you make their role indispensable, then they will feel like they are needed and take their job seriously. "Repeat and reinforce a larger purpose. Emphasize the positive impact of the work they do. Clarity about how your products or services can improve the world provides guideposts for employees' priorities and decisions," Kanter writes. "As part of the daily conversation, mission and purpose can make even mundane tasks a means to a larger end."
WILL YAKOWICZ is a reporter at Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and politics at Patch.com, and his work has been published in Tablet Magazine and The Brooklyn Paper. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. @WillYakowicz