Motivation can lead to profits

Innovation is everything, right? Well, the only way you'll innovate is if the brains within your organization have a nurturing, safe environment to think big. Everyone's talking about it.

Innovation is everything, right? Well, the only way you’ll innovate is if the brains within your organization have a nurturing, safe environment to think big. Everyone’s talking about it.

But translating the people-matter-most philosophy into a day-to-day business model has to be difficult: otherwise, why would so many companies struggle with it? Even in ad agencies, where all would seem fun and games if you went by the dedicated space for play found in most, it’s got to be a challenge. You hear about cut-throat behaviour at shops all the time, and sometimes you can smell the ego the minute you walk in the door.

This is disheartening in an industry where creative output is everything, and it’s one of the reasons we decided to focus our Biz feature, starting on page 11, on how companies and agencies cultivate unconventional thinking. Some firms, like Pfizer, which actually schedules time for pondering and has a policy to shut down e-mail and voice mail after hours, have made it a priority.

And they should, because research not only suggests employees are most productive in positive environments, but also that the correlation between happy workers and profit is definitive. Yet, it seems to be a truth some employers can’t – or won’t – comprehend, so in the hope of making it stick, here are some of the latest findings.

Teresa Amabile, head of the Harvard Business School’s Entrepreneurial Management Unit, has spent eight years analyzing more than 12,000 daily journal entries from 200-plus staffers at high-tech, CPG and chemical firms. She found that folks are least creative when deadline pressure looms, and that managers need to protect staff from office politics, among other things, if they plan to harvest exceptional ideas.

Meanwhile, the recently published book, The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want, shows that out of 28 companies employing 920,000 people, the share price of the 14 firms considered to have ‘high morale’ increased an average of 16% in 2004, versus those companies’ industry average increases of 6%. Meanwhile, half a dozen ‘low-morale’ corporations saw prices inch up only 3%, against overall industry averages of 16%. (Industry comparisons were based on data from over 9,000 companies.)

The book, by David Sirota, of Purchase, N.Y.-based Sirota Consulting, Louis A. Mischkind and Michael Irwin Meltzer, suggests the performance of ‘the whole,’ meaning an entire company or department, is better served if leaders promote teamwork. On the other hand, conflicts within teams (or between departments) can be incapacitating. Teamwork is particularly crucial when you consider that the big idea can come from anywhere, so you want to make sure all parties in all departments can contribute – and feel safe doing so.

That’s a point to keep in mind as you go about hiring young talent this spring. Starting on page 17, we profile eight university grads who, especially in today’s world of consumer hegemony, you should listen to. Some marketers already have, like Pfizer, which hired student Hani AlAita as a part-time associate brand manager.

AlAita, who will join Pfizer full-time upon graduation, has been working on Reactine, and came up with the notion of introducing a mobile component for the brand. The pharmaceutical giant has since implemented ‘Reactine Pollen Alerts’ text message alerts. Good idea, ain’t it?

Lisa D’Innocenzo, Editor