Organizational life can go on, driven by management, without asking people about their motivations. These are assumed in a rather generic way: everybody likes money, bonus are always good, target sales need to be incentivised monetarily. Even outside the extrinsic motivations repertoire, we still know better: making a difference, being autonomous, grow as professional, a good work-life balance.
The reality is that, whilst there is plenty of survey data in support or against those incentives, we apply those ‘findings’ in an universal way. Nobody has asked Peter, or John, or Mary what is specific for them. They will get what everybody will.
A while ago a senior HR person said to me ‘imagine if we had to ask one by one what they want!’. I did not understand what ‘we’ meant. Certainly I did not mean HR, which would be bound to address the problem via another blank survey. I was talking abut managers and leaders who should be able to know, must know.
The issue is in fact broader. The level of (staff) segmentation in organizations is minimal: rank, demographics and performance. That’s it. We treat the organization as a uniform entity. Communications are standardized for example. It is assumed that the messaging would be equally pertinent for new employees or long serving, technology functions or commercial, part timers ore full timers, men or women, people involved in rich social life or not, digital hermits or gregarious souls. Who cares?
In the socio-political arena, for example, we would not survive five minutes with those assumptions. Messaging, engagement, conversations and call to action are segmented and tailored. You don’t talk to a 60 year old about job creation, or certainly at the same level as to a 25 year old. Single parents and pensioners need different messages. They click with different things. This is not rocket sciences, yet, in the organization, we ignore it completely. We forget to ask, so we send them all the same goods.