A few months ago, we had the wonderful pleasure of spending a day interviewing 11 people at Oak Ridge Hotel & Conference Center to try to uncover their secret – because they have gotten the formula right on employee motivation. Anyone who has ever stepped into their facility outside of Minneapolis can attest to the customer service mentality that every employee exhibits – from the front desk, to housekeeping, to the chefs, groundskeepers, and even in accounting.
There is a definite difference in how the majority of these employees “show up” at their job everyday and how they view and take care of their “guests”. They are truly a company that is doing something right. Here is a quick overview of some of the findings we found:
1. Leadership counts – the one overriding conclusion that hit us in the face was how important leadership is in this process – they need to be present, genuine, and focused on the right things. Leadership at Oak Ridge is about getting to know the people who work for them, engaging them, and listening to them.
2. It is NOT about the money – I was a little surprised to hear (actually NOT hear) about “bonus plans” or “contests” or other “recognition programs” that had a big dollar value. It wasn’t important. It didn’t drive their day-to-day activities or play an integral part in their motivation.
3. It IS about the team – teamwork was an overriding theme in all of the interviews that we did. It wasn’t ever about “my job” but instead about serving the customer. If that means that top managers have to change sheets, then that is what happens. The overarching culture is one that focuses on working together to serve the guests – no question asked.
4. Genuine recognition rejuvenates and engages – real, honest recognition that is done on a regular basis, in public, helps reinvigorate and help drive the culture. Knowing that their work is important and recognized keeps people engaged.
5. It’s about people – employees were seen as people first and not just as cogs in the wheel. Management spent time getting to know them, getting to understand who they were, spending time finding out about their families and interests. They care and it shows.
There is something to learn here if you are interested in creating a workforce that is motivated and engaged. Our talks with Oak Ridge highlight that what we often consider to the be the main levers that we use to motivate people (i.e., money/contests) are not what drives motivation here. It gives us hope that we can all achieve this level of motivation in our workplace if we can create the atmosphere and culture that Oak Ridge is able to provide.