The Impact of Interest on Outcomes at Work: How to Motivate Younger Workers to a Higher Level of Performance

Last fall I was hired to assess an executive administrator at a small business in a technical industry.  She was in her first job out of college, placed in the job by a staffing firm, and was considered very bright at the time she was hired.  Unfortunately, her output did not meet up to the owners’ expectations.  It was a puzzle to the owners because they knew she was capable of doing a good job, she had the skills to do a good job, even a great job.  What they were witnessing was a steady and accelerating decline in quality of work and more frequently missed deadlines. 

I used a total person assessment tool to understand her thinking style, her behaviors, and finally, her job interests.  The results I received back confirmed that she had the correct thinking style for the job, she had the perfect behaviors or personality, but she just had little interest in administrative work.  In fact, she scored a 2 out of a possible 10 in administrative interest.   

The fact was she could do the job well, she just chose not to because she was not interested in the work itself.  As a result, she was blowing her chances to succeed and do well in her first job—as well as her chances of getting a positive recommendation for future work.  It made me realize that gone are the days where younger people take jobs and work hard, invest themselves whether they liked what they were doing or not, just for the chance to move ahead.  Today these younger people want to be good at what they do, but they want to like the process and the work itself.  If they don’t like the work, they will perform to a lower standard or they will leave and go somewhere else. 

This realization caused me to coach my clients to ask some questions in the interview that will uncover interests so they can gauge if the position they were applying for will line up with the candidates interest areas.  I also coach my clients to make sure and help these younger workers develop a clearly laid out succession plan.  They need to know where they can be in 3 years at the company, what they need to learn and develop to get there, and that they have a supportive manager to help them along the way.  If they do not see a clear career path and an opportunity to grow, they will lose interest and go somewhere else. 

So you are probably wondering what we did to help the performance of the admin.  The truth is we did nothing to help her performance as an admin.  There is no training or coaching in the world that would boost her performance as an admin.  She simply was not interested in the work that admins do. Instead of wasting time and money for little return, we focused our time on uncovering what her true interests were and finding a position at the company that would be a better fit for her.  We discovered that she is very interested more technical and creative work so she was placed in a technical support role and is doing much better.  I would not consider her to be a top performer, but I would say she is B performer.  As the company grows, and as her maturity grows as a worker, my hope is that a new position will open up and she will have the maturity to take it on as an A performer. 

Amy Hedin is a professional speaker and executive coach at HumanPoint.  She works with senior leaders to help them improve their performance as leaders, and the performance of their employees.  For more information, contact or call toll free 877-494-7947.

By |May 1st, 2008|Coaching|