It is usually assumed that only 20 percent of employees in an organization are truly devoted and willing to go above and beyond requirements. In this assumption, the remaining 80 percent of the employees just want to come to work, do the bare minimum and collect a paycheck.
While there are employees who just want to do the minimum no matter what you do to motivate them, I personally do not and cannot believe that only 20 percent are devoted.
Speaking from my own experience, I was in the assumed 20 percent seven years ago when I was on the assembly line. I really was not concerned about the organization, its direction or its atmosphere. I just wanted to come to work and collect a paycheck at the end of the week. I was not inspired and was a victim of the daily grind.
This viewpoint quickly changed direction when my assembly manager started valuing my opinions on improvement ideas. A light switch was turned on. Almost instantaneously, I was motivated and energized. This eventually led to me becoming a lean change agent and earning a promotion to lean engineer.
It was not challenging for my assembly manager to motivate me. I was given the freedom to use my imagination and try unique, even "crazy" ideas. This freedom made my job exciting, and I was able to save the company plenty of money and even implement cultural tools.
I believe this would work for most people because these elements are in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Individuals need to flex their mental muscle, be part of a successful team and be recognized for the effort.
This might be all it takes to engage individuals. It is simple and effective. People generally react positively to respect because it elevates their esteem. High esteem generates high morale, and high morale spawns overachievers. Positivity, caring and valuing the employees’ input to business decisions will entwine them deep into the organization, and this will result in a higher percentage of organizational devotion.
As mentioned earlier, I do not believe that 80 percent of the workforce is preordained to become mediocre zombies. In fact, I believe if organizational leaders accept this as true, they grow to become mediocre zombies themselves. The light switch can be flipped in everyone. The challenge lies in how to flip it.