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5 Questions With Dov Seidman Inspiration as Worker Incentive

June 1, 2010
Related Topics: Corporate Culture, Motivating Employees, Ethics, Featured Article, HR & Business Administration

It’s the era of inspiration, author Dov Seidman says. Companies must help employees tap into intrinsic motivation rather than rely on carrots and sticks, contends Seidman, founder of consulting firm LRN and author of the book HOW: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything … in Business (and in Life). Seidman recently spoke with Workforce Management senior editor Ed Frauenheim.

Workforce Management: What should companies be doing with the “how” of their employees?

Dov Seidman: First and foremost, companies need to realize that they are no longer fortresses. That they are part of, and fluid with, society and the communities in which they do business.

WM: Can you tell me more?

Seidman: Because we are on social networks and on e-mail, every single employee of the company is acting, behaving and making decisions day in, day out that reflect well or poorly on a company, that help a company deliver its brand promise—or not. Never has it been more critical to not just engage employees but to inspire them to deliver that promise in very meaningful, loyalty-building ways. Companies are beginning to understand this. They are telling the marketplace that deep down they stand for human, social and environmental values. What remains for them to do is not just to market and proclaim this commitment, but to translate their values into corporate practices and individual and leadership behaviors throughout their company.

WM: How well are they doing?

Seidman: We’re at the beginning of this recognition. Some are going to do it very seriously and do well. Some are going to trip up. Years ago, we declared quality Job One. It took many years to truly make quality part of the DNA and fabric of our culture. We are now declaring that human and social and environmental values are Job One—values like transparency, integrity and truth. Companies are going on this journey, but they’re going to need to inspire all of their employees to come along.

WM: Hasn’t the recession undermined trust between employees and companies?

Seidman: The whole system needs to change. Most companies are vertically structured. They try to enlist their employees in behaviors through governance. Asking people to play by the rules, to follow laws and regulations and company policies, and using just carrots and sticks to compel or incent them to do so is a system that is fraying and showing its limitations—especially in a recession when there are fewer carrots to go around.

WM: What’s the alternative?

Seidman: The alternative is not to get leadership and culture through governance, but to get governance through leadership and culture. I think we have entered the era of inspiration. When you’re inspired, you are acting from within. You are guided by beliefs that you hold to be fundamental. You’re pursuing a mission that you think is worthy of your dedication. Leadership today in companies has to inspire their people by connecting with them meaningfully at this fundamental level of belief.

Workforce Management, May 2010, p. 8 -- Subscribe Now!

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