I had an unexpected childhood. In the early 1970s my father left his respectable and secure job in a nationalised industry and headed off to university. It wasn’t until I was going through some of his books after he died and came across a passage he had marked about education for education's sake, that I began to appreciate why he had taken this decision. As a student at Ruskin College Oxford, Ruskin’s concept of education as “leading human souls to what is best, and making what is best out of them.” was a core aspect of his motivation to become an educator. In the 1970s it was not done to leave a good job and pursue an uncertain future, especially if you were already in your thirties with a young family to support. I will never know what made him realise that the steady job would not be steady for much longer or what gave him the courage to pursue what was really important to him. I do know that it delivered financial stability and despite its challenges, I think it delivered real job satisfaction too.
My father’s actions were unusual at the time but now his story seems much more familiar. There are a number of recent pieces of US and UK research recording how most of us will have a number of jobs with an increasing number of employers during our working lives. The Association of Accounting Technicians research in 2015 interviewed 2000 people and found that 46% would change their career completely after finding their current path wasn’t for them. It is much written about that millennials and younger people in the workforce expect much more than a wage packet as fair recompense for their labour. Our relationship with work is more complex and sophisticated than it used to be. Whilst income is important; job satisfaction, well-being, work-life balance, development opportunities and working for an employer that demonstrates social responsibility and where we feel proud to be part of the organisation are also key.
It is now recognised that being able to align our personal values and motivations to that of our business or employer is vital to productivity. When we are not fully engaged with our jobs, when we are not convinced our job is worth doing, when we don’t feel we are making the best of our talents, or being enabled to do the best job we can, we are less efficient and the quality of our work suffers. The CMI Quality of Working Life Report 2016 found motivation was becoming an increasing challenge for managers, 28% reported feeling not very motivated or not motivated at all. Over a third of public sector managers reported feeling demotivated and working at less than 70% productivity.
More now than ever, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what motivates and drives us and how we can align this in our work to do a job worth doing and do it well. The fast changing world of work and business means that we need to accept that the "what" and "how" of our work will change frequently. We must have a deep understanding of the "why" in order to provide the compass to navigate our future career path and deliver satisfaction, well-being and success.
This article was inspired by Lani Morris
Jane Pightling has experience across the public, private and charitable sector. Through her work in the NHS Leadership Academy and her consultancy Evolutionary Connections she developed complex systems leadership capacity, providing training, coaching programmes and establishing networks and communities of practice to sustain learning. She maintains her social work registration and her commitment to person centred and community focused approaches. Jane has a deep interest in the potential offered by new ways of working, designing and building organisations and communities that can best deliver this kind of service. She works with organisations and leaders to develop approaches that design in autonomy, wholeness and purpose.