A Focus on Relationships

For many employees, commitment is fostered through healthy working relationships with colleagues and management. Anecdotal evidence suggests that one of the main reasons people leave a company is not inadequate pay or benefits; it is more often a difficult day-to-day working relationship with their immediate supervisor. The popular saying: “People don’t leave organizations, they leave managers” is true a lot of times. Managers should acknowledge that a positive working relationship with an employee is one of the cornerstones of gaining commitment. Also, fostering supportive relationships among employees in a team or unit can engender a feeling of obligation to colleagues. Apart from the relationship with management, peer relationships can, and often do, have a major bearing on commitment.

Matching Individual and Organizational Values

The reconciling of employee and organizational values is another way of building organizational commitment. A good example of linking staff and organizational values occurs at Medtronic, the world’s largest medical device company, headquartered in Minneapolis. Among many value-based initiatives, Medtronic regularly broadcasts to its 45,000 plus employees worldwide. The company shares stories of patients who have benefited from their medical products. Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak states:

The culture is one of the main reasons I joined Medtronic. It’s highly customer-focused and highly mission-centric. Here is a company with a mission that hasn’t changed in 50 years, and it’s a great motivation for people to stay.7

Employees at Medtronic can “see” the end result of their work. Many of them are profoundly moved by patients’ success stories. The matching of personal and organizational values builds and reinforces the desire to commit to the business’s mission. Medtronic puts a human face on its mission, and has achieved employee-retention rates above the industry norm.

Of course, a company’s mission is especially compelling when patients’ lives are at stake. But companies in any industry can find creative ways to help employees understand and appreciate how their daily work has a personal impact on the lives of their customers. Employees in these circumstances commit to the organization because they want to. This strategy is very much in line with one of the dimensions of intrinsic motivation we discussed in the previous chapter: purpose. By according personal and organizational values, it engenders a sense of purpose and inspires intrinsic motivation.

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