The other day I saw this YouTube explaining what motivates us and why some of us work better than others. I know what you’re thinking: money! duh! Yes and no. What I got out of this video was a single thought:
What motivates us? Purpose.
If we don’t have a purpose and we’re not contributing to the greater human good- we don’t perform as well as others. I’ll let you watch the video.
I’m going to tell you a rather interesting story while I worked at FedEx Ground. Or you can just skip this part since you’ve already seen the video. I dealt with our inbound operation- for about 4 years. I know, what in the world is Alison Foxall, a designer, doing in a place like that? It started out as just a job for college, but quickly grew into MUCH more- so much more that even though I’ve been gone from the place for quite some time now- the experience remains an active part of my life.
Let’s skip over some personal stories involving FedEx Ground and move into when I was a manager at a smaller facility about 40 miles south of Tampa. At the time I loved FedEx- I lived and breathed it, had a blast working, hitting our goals, and competing to be the “best”. FXG is very competitive in that way– especially in the Florida region. Not only were we competitive inside the facility, we competed with other facilities in the region, and the region as a whole competed with regions around the nation. All to do one very simple thing: to provide an outstanding FedEx experience as outlined in the Purple Promise.
Being competitive sure did drive me. Until I was the best. I took a new building, with a co-manager, and we turned it into a pretty damn good building with what we had, in as little as a few months with a full staff that was quite untrained. Money was not motivating. I was making a lot more freelancing on the side than I was at FXG. So when I had no competition, especially within the building- what was motivating me? I had a purpose. I made a goal for myself: Package Handler retention.
FedEx Ground has some of the worst turnover rates for their lower-level employees. I’ve seen people quit in an hour (literally). Others have quit right at orientation. Most popular scenario is when they don’t come back the next day. Some manage to stay one week, then quit. Why do people quit jobs in the beginning? Usually, it’s one or two things: Management or the job really does suck that bad.
Before I became a manager I observed the problem: management. You can’t exactly train a person in a job if you’re not a good teacher- no matter how good you are at the job- if you are inadequate at teaching and fail to connect with an individual, you’re going to fail at training. The main problem was that these new people were not being engaged- they didn’t know what to do, while managers expected them to automatically “get it” on the first run. It doesn’t work like that. Strangely enough, a common problem was determining an even number from an odd number. Yes, there were people who had trouble with this. When you are a manager the last thing you want to do is appear to be frustrated with your subordinate. You should teach, train, and nurture the working relationship. It’s okay to make mistakes when you’re learning but make it clear to them that after one, two, or maybe even a handful of times (depending on the individual), you expect them to understand whatever it is you are teaching them.
Now let’s get to the other problem: the job sucks. This is a matter of opinion. I loved the job personally. I didn’t have to talk to hundreds of customers going in and out of the door- or deal with snobby customers, or questionably drunk people (when I worked at 7-11). Plus, I was getting a work out (loading) while getting paid (talk about being in shape!).
But back to the main deal- I’m getting side tracked. So the job some-what sucks, and management was not engaging. I had my purpose and motivation for working there again. I wanted to retain package handlers. I wanted to make them like working there, show them it’s a great company to be apart of, and I didn’t want any new hire quitting on the first day or week. I’m happy to report that this never happened to me. Although that may have been due to the different location I was in, and the current state of the economy (not a lot of jobs from 2008-2010).
I engaged them, made friends, all while making sure we were hitting our goals. One of the basis was building a team. They all had to gel together – like a football team. I remember watching the Tampa Bay Bucs with practically all new players and only a few vets, it was very difficult to not only win games, but to just play together in general. And it showed negatively. The only way I was going to build my team was to have retention, train constantly, and follow up with them daily. People aren’t going to work as well if they hate their boss- I know because I’ve been there too many times.
So back to the job sucking- that was a constant reminder having to wake up around 3am every day. I made sure all my people knew about all the programs available to them through FedEx to save money- a major incentive to working there, which goes back to the monetary value talked about in the video. The problem for FedEx is working at 10 bucks an hour starting pay was not that great for doing this type of work. It was okay, but not nearly enough to provide motivation for people.
When I was a package handler, in the beginning, it was money- but then it got really boring, and there were no challenges to the job. I had to be creative and in creating motivation for myself, mostly with contributing to the team. I knew that my manager and my manager’s manager was counting on me to provide the best service and hit the best numbers I could.
So what’s the story in all this? I found my purpose, my motivation at FedEx later on when money was not why I worked there anymore. I wanted to help. I wasn’t interested in helping shippers or customers receiving packages (I had to do that, it was required), but I was interested in helping my employees. I wanted to help our contractors. I wanted to make sure they had all they needed to succeed and that I could teach them all I knew about the company, all the little tricks and tips and whatnot. I wanted to help make the job suck less, and even mildly enjoyable. And I did. And then I left too. I fulfilled my purpose, and I reached my single goal that I wrote down in my review: Reduce package handler turn-over. I’m proud to say that 60% of the package handlers that started in day 1 when this particular facility opened, were still there when I left. The others left for FT jobs and had nothing to do with the job sucking. For FedEx Ground, that number is off the charts amazing.
My purpose and motivation remain the same for what I do now. I want to help my clients achieve their goals. I want to contribute to people’s happiness and overall success. Helping.
What is your motivation?