Why Your Employees Suck (and How To Really Inspire Organizational Change)

Why Your Employees Suck (and How To Really Inspire Organizational Change)
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Jason Korman

Almost every company in the United States has organizational change wrong.

They believe "culture" is about having a list of values.

Culture is not about having a list of values. Nor is leadership about charisma.

The reason organizations fail at their primary task (which is delivering value and delighting customers), is because they fail to grasp what truly motivates and inspires their people.

People aren't motivated by rewards or punishments.

They aren't inspired by upward mobility and performance rating.

People, at their core, want to have MEANING in their lives. They want to feel a part of something bigger. They want a true sense of connection.

At its core, this is what a social culture really is. According to Jason Korman, the co-founder and CEO of Gapingvoid (an innovative and leading culture design firm), culture is a construct. More specifically, a "social construct."

Change doesn't happen through training or rewards, Korman argues, it happens socially.

As an industrial and organizational psychologist, I can fully agree with Korman's assessment. Training rarely works.

Training isn't how you change people.

Instead, people change based on social interactions.

So, as a leader or CEO, you're job is to create a culture, a "social construct" in which people can embed themselves.

Being a part of that culture needs to become far more important than any punishments or rewards an employee gets.

Being a member of the group becomes an end in itself.

THAT'S the selling-point.

Rather than raises, being a part of THIS TEAM is how an employee will gain a deep sense of meaning, purpose, and connection in their life.

Thus, according to Korman, leaders need to move their way up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and stop focusing on the base needs. Move up to the esteem needs, the needs for connection, and ultimately self-actualization, which can and should happen as a member of the in-group or social culture.

Getting people embedded into the social construct.

So how do you get people embedded in such cultures?

If you look at organizations like Zappos, when you become a member you become a "Zapponian."

In other words, a person needs to tie their identity to the group.

There needs to rituals and relics.

There must be buy-in to the shared beliefs and behaviors that are part of the in-group.

There needs to be deep connection-making happening, where people in the group learn from each other, become comfortable with each other, and develop trust.

The MEANING of being in the group IS THE SELLING POINT.

It's not about punishments and rewards.

Once a person is experiencing deep meaning and purpose from being a member of the community, their performance will naturally rise.

They'll shift from what psychologists call "push" motivation, to "pull" motivation. Push motivation is a behavior that an individual forces themselves to complete in order to satisfy a need or achieve a goal. Pull motivation is a behavior that an individual feels drawn towards.

In other words, once a person is experiencing deep connection and purpose from being a part of something bigger than themselves, you won't be able to stop them from performing.


Because company outcomes will become EMOTIONAL.

It won't be about not getting a raise if an organizational outcome isn't hit.

It will be about the group not fulfilling its mission.

When such is the case, good luck stopping people from working until the result happen.


Organizational culture has been a confusing and misled topic of conversation for a long time.

Most companies don't know what it is.

They don't know what it's for.

They don't know how to create it.

Most importantly, most companies continue attempting to motivate their people through rewards and punishments, rather than meaning and connection.

Drawing from Jason Korman, leaders need to re-conceptualize "culture" as a social construct, in which change occurs socially, not through training, punishments, or performance appraisals.

When organizations can create true social cultures, wherein their employees experience a deep sense of meaning and purpose, and thus org outcomes become EMOTIONAL, then clients and customers will become very happy and business will become highly profitable.

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