Inside Out E-Column: Aligning Employee Engagement with Marketing Communications

Play, Work and Hell

If you believe the essence of good marketing is “relationship building” – both inside and outside the organization – here’s something to think about.  I’ve written before about a communication giant and former colleague named David Berlo.  He used to say that all activity in the workplace can be classified into one of three categories – play, work or hell.

Play is the stuff that people love to do – the things they enjoy so much they’d do it without pay if they didn’t need the money.   Work is the stuff that’s not great fun, but it’s acceptable enough that people will do it if they get something in exchange that they want and don’t have.  That’s why we call it “compensation.”   Hell is the stuff that no one wants to do, and you can’t pay them enough to do it.

So how do you optimize performance?
First, whenever possible put people where they can have “fun” – not frivolous or silly things, but the kind of work that people find genuinely enjoyable.  In part, that means finding out what gets people tuned in and turned on, and then creating a culture that lets people find the work that suits them best.  You can almost always count on people to do their best on the things they enjoy most.

Second, when it comes to run-of-the-mill work, it’s pretty basic – compensate people fairly, and the vast majority will give you a fair day’s effort in return.

Finally, for the stuff that makes work feel like hell.  Start by asking yourself if it really needs to be done.  A lot of crappy work exists only because it’s been hanging around forever, and no one ever asks why.  If the answer is no, stop doing it.  If the work does need to be done, ask yourself if it can be done another way.  If it can, change it so it’s not unbearable.  If it can’t be changed, and it still needs to be done, and you can’t pay people enough to do it, you play “Let’s make a deal.”  Ask employees what they would need in return if they’d be willing to do it.  Then negotiate until you get to a place that works for both of you.  If you can’t come to a mutual agreement, you better give it up.

There’s always one more option.
You could resort to the traditional management method of just forcing people, telling them they have to do it or there’ll be – of course – hell to pay.  In fact, the question “How can I motivate my people” is often a cover-up for the question, “How can I tell employees to go through hell, and make them like it.”  If you do decide to take that approach, be sure to prepare yourself for the resulting decline in employee engagement and the quality of customer relationships.  Hmmm … on second thought, what were those other options again?

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