Ways Data Motivates Employees Might Surprise You


There is proof that data motivates employee performance.  The contemporary buzzwords for successful people management is Emotional Quotient (EQ) or Emotional Intelligence (EI). It’s how leaders guide thinking and behavior and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or help to achieve individual goals. We can’t ignore that piece of productivity puzzles any longer. People need to know that what they do matters.

An interesting article from Gallup Corporation caught my attention because it speaks of data in relation to just this.  In business, we think of data as information pertaining to financial results, key performance indicators, process technology measurements, and equipment condition information.  The Gallup article speaks of data of a different kind.

Written by Curt Coffman and Jim Harter, Ph.D., the article goes into detail regarding twelve key areas of employee attitudes and how their studies of a wide variety of corporations show that employee perceptions correlate strongly with productivity, profits, turnover and customer satisfaction.[1]  After studying 2500 organizations in 12 industries, the authors relate, “The data clearly show that successful business units are distinctive in that employees have clear expectations, close relationships, can see how what they do relates to ‘something significant,’ and have an ongoing opportunity to contribute to that ‘something significant’ while learning and growing as individuals.”

Productivity and Profits are 50% and 44% higher respectively for top quartile companies (in employee attitudes) as compared to the bottom quartile.

Intuitive Data Delivers Productivity – How Data Motivates

The “something significant” phrase reminded me of a story I heard told at a quality management meeting many years ago. Let’s say you visit for an evening of recreation and I suggest we go bowling.  We arrive at the bowling alley and rent shoes and bowling balls.  We are assigned to Lane 8. We then march down a narrow corridor to a door marked with the number 8.  I open the door and we walk inside to see a single bowling lane with walls on either side.

Down at the end of the alley where the bowling pins would be, there is a large black curtain with slits in it.  That’s an odd arrangement; how will we know how many pins we hit?  My friend and I take turns rolling the ball towards the curtain. After 12 frames, we are done. What is the score? Who won? How close was each of us to winning? How can I know if I need to improve my game? If this were a team situation, whose team would have won? We both agreed without any pin action and scorekeeping, the game was a big fat bore, not worth even finishing. We won’t be back to that bowling alley any time soon.

All too often we design our organizations in the same way.  Our plant workers are rolling those barrels or pounds of product through the plant, with no feedback regarding what happened after the fruit of their labor reached the customer.  Was the customer satisfied?  What did the customer use the product for?  Did our team make any money?  Did we win? Data motivates.

Human beings have psychological needs such as the need to learn and go on learning, to have a reasonable amount of decision-making authority, and to have at a minimal degree, social support.  One critical psychological need is a need to be able to relate what we do or produce to the objectives of the team.  All too often data which shows those measurements are in the dark.

Measure Is Motivation

Leaders must satisfy this need in people for meaning or significance.  If it is not designed into the workplace, then people engage in coping activities.  Some will adapt constructively by satisfying that need by their life outside of work, through family activities and civic duties.  Others will adapt to meet their needs in non-constructive ways, i.e., by disruptive behavior in the workplace.

The challenge for leaders is to create a compelling vision and to inspire people to buy into the meaning and significance of what they do, committing to the cause.  Finding how the collected data motivates is key. The Gallup Organization article says that satisfying organization members’ needs for significant results in top quartile profit performance. How will you ensure your organization is using its data holistically, throughout the corporation, not just in the management ranks?

At InCite Logix, we are all about data.  Data is collected every moment and tucked away in silo’ed databases that are difficult to access and aggregate. That’s what we call “dark data”.  Armies of professionals extract the information as best they can and key it into spreadsheets that may be subsequently linked to the latest dashboard technology that only a select few can see.

There are better ways to do this that will allow people at every level to be set free to do higher value work – because they know what that looks like.  If the most critical dark data is lit up automatically and given as routine feedback to every member, they will see the significance of their individual contributions. That’s motivating. That’s exciting. That’s worth showing up for.

Give your data the power to motivate as well as to measure. At InCite Logix, we love lighting up data and making it talk in all the right ways to the right people, at the right time. If you’d like to know how to extract motivation from your people, you must first extract it from your data and then make it shareable.

InCite Logix has ways to take global data from myriads of different sources, translate it and localize it for hyper-specific audiences who are intensely interested in knowing how the fruits of their labor not only affect their paychecks but the organization. Why not give them their own personal KPI that aligns with corporate wins. We’re ready to show you how to do that. Complete the form below and tell us your biggest unsolvable problem.


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About the Author: 

Bill has been engaged on the owner-operator side successfully over the past three decades. He has been a plant manager for three different companies and has had multi-site responsibilities. He has held positions in operations, project management, EHS, and corporate staff.