Greatness Matters: Inspiring Workers To Do Great Work Thinkstock

Greatness Matters: Inspiring Workers To Do Great Work

If you don’t expect greatness from employees, you won’t get it.

A new survey from O.C. Tanner that explores the drivers behind employees moving beyond good work into great work yielded a surprising insight: While most companies chase employee engagement to inspire great work, human nature works the other way around. Get people involved in doing something great and engagement soars.

The survey found that while high engagement scores do not necessarily mean that employees are doing great work, 60 percent of employees who are performing great work are actively engaged. “So being involved in meaningful work, like innovating or improving things, is highly likely to increase employee engagement,” said researchers.

The Great Work Index Study defines good work as “adequate” and “expected.” It is work that is completed on time and leaves a positive impression with managers. Great work is defined as “innovative or productive work that goes beyond expectations. It might be about improving things or simply delivering additional value. But most of all, great work makes a difference people love.”

Part of O.C. Tanner's annual Great Work research, the study polled more than 3,400 employees from the United States, Australia, Canada, U.K., Germany and India. The study found that there are two main accelerants that encourage employees to strive for greatness: the organization's expectations for greatness and access to resources. Other key survey findings include:

  • 79 percent of respondents feel like “all employees” should perform great work, but only 59 percent feel like “all employees” actually take the responsibility to perform great work.
  • Non-managers have a hard time seeing the value in their work, and also report the lowest access to resources. Consequently, they tend to have lower expectations of great work being performed in their organizations.
  • Employees who work at companies where it is believed all employees should perform great work and actually take the responsibility to perform great work see, on average, a 14 percent increase in productivity.

“It’s time we reconsider if investing in a cool workplace is really giving us the return on engagement we think it is. Or, if we need to begin investing a little more in our employees’ natural desire to make a difference within the jobs they have,” says a blog post on the O.C. Tanner web site.

The survey summary can be downloaded here.

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