Balanced Challenges

One of the main drivers of intrinsic motivation is related to the challenges that employees face daily. When all tasks are very easy to accomplish, people do not need to use their full capabilities which in one way helps them establishing a routine, but in the other demotivates them quickly. Employees, actually most humans, want to grow and expand their own skill set and when they do not have the opportunity to do so, they lose interest in their work and might look for challenges somewhere else. The other extreme is being confronted with demanding tasks all the time that are beyond their capabilities. This leads to despair due to personal failure over and over again and therefore demotivates employees in a different way. Thus, employees need balanced challenges that allow them to get their work done but also demand increased performance, critical thinking and innovative problem solving every now and then. This means that they can easily enter the flow while working on simple daily tasks that are within their routine, but that they also grow their capabilities with new challenges that push their boundaries to another level. This level of balanced challenges helps employees to stay focused, makes them feel valued, creates an atmosphere of growth, and in that way, motivates intrinsically.

Managers should keep track of the employee workload in both, quantity and required level of skills. When one can see that an employee is facing a lot of different tasks, they need to sense the despair and call other employees in for support or extend deadlines to lift the responsibility and decrease the stress level. They further should emphasize the importance of balanced challenges to supervisors as well as employees, so they themselves understand the mode of working in the flow on easy tasks and the mode of promoting personal growth through challenging assignments. When one can sense boredom, it is good to have tasks at hand that are different to the daily routine and that require complex thinking in order to challenge the employee. Doing so extends the bond of trust between the manager and the employee since the employee feels valued being given the new task and the manager acknowledges the performance when the task is fulfilled.

Using the Beacon dashboard helps to assess if the given challenges are well-balanced or if there are either too many or too little hard tasks for the employees.  A high value above 70 means that employees are engaged in such a way that they can express their full skills while still being able to learn from the various challenges at the same time. A low value below 30 can indicate two opposite and different things. A level of daily challenge perceived too high compared to one’s skills, that leads to stress, worry and fear of mistakes, or one too low, leading to boredom, routine work and low engagement.