When leadership expert and author Robin Sharma said, “Don’t confuse activity with productivity. Many people are simply busy being busy,” he shone the spotlight on an issue that worries organizations – how to ensure their people are truly productive.

While a large part of employee productivity is tied to their own capacity, their environment is an equally large contributor. Often, performance in the office can be tied to whether or not an employee feels valued within the company.

So, what does it mean to be valued?

Employers may think that employees feel valued when they receive adequate pay, get perks and facilities, or are appreciated for a job well done. While all these do contribute, being valued is more than just a sum of these parts.

Imagine an employee who successfully completes an important project. He gets a bonus. However, throughout the project, his opinions are constantly ignored, and instead of having to work within his area of expertise, he is delegated to work on what could be completed by a junior team member.

In this case, despite receiving the bonus, the employee is unlikely to feel valued.

Then, what creates value?

A study on self-determination theory suggests that motivation can be intrinsic – under the right conditions. While these conditions can partly be achieved using self-improvement techniques, an inadequate work environment would undo any gains made. These ‘right conditions’ are key factors in creating feelings of being valued and belongingness in people.

  • Employees need to feel competent. If an individual knows their field and is confident in their own abilities, they will be able to push themselves to perform well. That confidence can only be built if their competence is recognized! Employees who are consulted and heard out will feel that their ideas are being taken seriously, and develop the drive they need to further their productivity.
  • Employees need autonomy. Once an employee’s competence is recognized, he needs to feel that the organization trusts him with the method of handling work as well. Competent employees appreciate the freedom to work on more critical parts of projects, as well as more control over their deadlines and their modus operandi. As employees highlight at Thomson Reuters, contributing to important projects, having the freedom to learn and apply that learning to work, and having flexible working practices, are all motivational triggers.
  • Employees need connection. Relatedness is the third keyword in the study, referring to the sense of belonging craved by all of humanity. Naturally, it applies to work as well. The building blocks of relatedness in an office come from a healthy work environment, where conversation and participation is encouraged, but it doesn’t stop there. People are even concerned about the values their organization has. Human resources advisor Paul Wolfe points out, people want to feel seen and heard, even if the company doesn’t agree with them all the time.

Most people desire meaning in their lives, and want to feel that their actions make a difference both to themselves and the world around them. When organizations acknowledge this need and create the conditions to help people realize this quest for meaning and recognition, the conditions turn right for people to do their best work and be productive.

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