Monday, 1 October 2012

Quality and Motivation

I was recently asked by S&PA Professional, a bi-monthly magazine for members of the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA), to write 500 words on whether "the quality of the facility impacts on the motivation of staff". My response is below:

What appears to be at first glance a straightforward question suddenly becomes complicated when attempting to provide evidence for a demonstrable link between quality and motivation. This is because both variables are quite subjective and therefore can be difficult to quantify. A canter through the internet reveals that quality has many definitions but fulfilling the requirements of end-users to meet their expectations is a recurring one. In terms of facilities, quality may also refer to the standard of the environment, the accompanying (facilities management) service provided, and the robustness and longevity of products such as desks and chairs.

Many years ago I visited a new office facility on the day of “practical completion” – the day that the office is handed over to the client. I recall my architectural colleague being annoyed at how the top of the filing cabinets did not align with the top of the desk screens – there was about a 10 mm difference. What he had not noticed, which I pointed out, was the absence of chairs which meant the occupants would not be able to work at their desks (in comfort). My point is that we notice different aspects of quality depending on our experience and expertise. The lay person will most likely not readily notice the quality of finishes of doors, partitions and furniture etc in their new facilities and as a consequence it will have little impact on motivation. However, I do believe that they will appreciate the quality of finishes unconsciously using senses other than sight – for example the weight, smoothness, texture and solidity of doors, chairs and desks all affect our perception of quality. Although this unconscious appreciation of quality is evident in some industries, such as cars and hotels where quality is reflected in cost, the link to motivation in the workplace is less clear.

But evidence showing the impact of the quality of the environmental conditions on the end-users motivation and performance is much clearer. I recently published a journal paper[1] in which my co-author and I predicted the impact of environmental conditions, such as temperature, noise, lighting, ventilation and space, on occupant performance. The predictions were based on a meta-analysis of 75 world-wide academic productivity studies. After adjusting for the study setting and activity recorded, we found that such variables typically have a 1% to 3.5% impact on occupant performance. We also found that office refurbishments including new furniture were found to have approximately a 4% to 8% impact on performance. There are also many published post occupancy evaluations (case studies)[2] which demonstrate an increase in staff satisfaction and self-assessed performance as a result of moving to new workplace facilities.

You may have noticed that the impact of the facility on performance is relatively small. This is because the largest impact comes from organisational factors such as job satisfaction, recognition/reward and management structure. I am a fan of Frederick Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory[3] in which he suggested that such organisational factors motivate us to perform better whereas a lack of “hygiene” factors have a negative impact on performance. I believe his hygiene factors include the environmental conditions, discussed above, such that we only notice when they are not working properly which in turn leads to dissatisfaction, demotivation and corresponding poor performance.

My conclusion is that although we may not always notice the quality of our facilities, they definitely impact on our satisfaction with that facility and affect our wellbeing, motivation and ultimately our performance.

  1. Oseland N A and Burton A (2012) Quantifying the impact of environmental conditions on worker performance for inputting to a business case to justify enhanced workplace design features. Journal of Building Survey, Appraisal & Valuation, 1(2), pp151-164.
  2. Oseland N A (2007) The BCO Guide to Post-Occupancy Evaluation. London: British Council for Offices.
  3. Herzberg F (1968) One more time: How do you motivate employees?, Harvard Business Review, 46(1), pp53–62.

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