By Bob Nelson & Rick Garlik

While there are hundreds, if not thousands of studies on employee engagement and motivation, the vast majority focus on job satisfaction and how employee experience translates to job performance.  While we believe that job satisfaction is necessary for high levels of job performance, it is not sufficient.  In reviewing the literature on employee motivation and engagement we found a missing, yet essential piece, in the concept of work pride. We wanted to explore this concept in more depth, especially as it relates to key business outcomes that are driven by a company’s employees.  This study examines two aspects of work pride:  Personal pride in one’s work and pride in one’s company.

The Study

The online study surveyed 1017 full-time employees who were not self-employed or independent contractors.  The study sample had diverse representation across key demographics that potentially influence work pride.  Using a 5-point scale where ‘1’ meant ‘strongly disagree’ and ‘5’ meant ‘strongly agree’, the survey asked the respondents to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement, with 53 items which represented items that theoretically should predict the personal pride one has in his or work, as well as the pride one has in his or her company.  A portion of the 53 items represented ‘outcome’ items, and the remainder pertained to recognition as a potential catalyst for pride. 

Two items were used to measure personal pride in work and company pride which were:

  • ‘Overall, I experience a tremendous amount of pride in my work.’
  • ‘I am extremely proud to work for my current company.’

These items were used as overall measures of pride in predictive modelling exercises.

Intrinsic drive inspires personal pride in work

The survey items were factor-analyzed to produce broader underlying constructs to predict work pride.  One such factor was labelled ‘intrinsic drive’. Intrinsic drive is best described as the feeling a person gets knowing his or her work has made a positive impact on others.  Many times, the worker’s contribution is one he/she considers to be something for which he/she is uniquely qualified to deliver, resulting in a strong sense of pride in his/her work. The study showed that recognizing employees for desired behaviors and achievements was an effective way to increase personal pride of employees,

Another component of intrinsic driveis more of a personality factor some might label ‘perfectionism’.  People with strong intrinsic drivecannot stand to look at work that is either unfinished or completed at a lower standard of quality.  When someone with strong intrinsic drive looks at a job well-done, they experience a high degree of self-satisfaction which translates to pride.

Effectively, workers with high intrinsic drive have strong pride in their work due to:

  • A strong connection between the work they do and positive outcomes for the company and its customers
  • A belief that they are uniquely qualified to complete a task that others cannot do as well
  • The ability to stand back, look at the end-product they have produced, and feel a sense of admiration of their own work
  • A strong drive to complete every job to perfection

Culture, external validation are keys to company pride

Company pride is driven primarily by company culture.  The factor analysis showed that 18 separate items predicted company culture and included such diverse ideas as high trust and respect for leadership; having a strong mission, vision, and values; maintaining a positive corporate reputation for ethics; consistently displaying considerate treatment of employees; and having a high profile for corporate contributions to social, environmental, and governance causes.

A second factor that predicts corporate pride is external validation.   External validation occurs when friends, relatives, and cohorts outside the company remark on prestige associated with the job and the company.  Examples would be situations where others show high awareness of your employer, express interest in having a similar job, or comment on the recognition you’ve received.  External validation can occur from conversations, through reading an article or hearing your company mentioned in a positive way on a newscast or other media source.  In this case, the emphasis is less on company culture and more on external familiarity.

Both types of pride have a tremendous impact on engagement

Overall, 43% of respondents indicate they have the highest level of pride in their work, while about half as many (20%) indicate low pride in their work.  Company pride is more divided with approximately one-third (33%) of respondents indicating high company pride, while another one-third (30%) had low company pride with the other third (37%) somewhere in the middle. 

The survey asks a series of ‘outcome’ items that have been positively linked to external metrics in previous proprietary studies and can thus be used as proxies.  These items predict outcomes such as overall job satisfaction, advocacy, retention, productivity, and profitability.

Compared to those with low pride, those with high personal pride in their work were:

  • 10 X more likely to be highly satisfied with their jobs
  • 8 X more likely to look forward to coming to work every day
  • 7 X more likely to advocate their company as a place to work and believe they are being paid fairly for the value they create at work

Similarly, comparing those with high company prideto those with low pride, those with high pride were:

  • 24 X more likely to stay at their current companies even if offered higher pay elsewhere
  • 21 X more likely to recommend their companies to others as a place to work.
  • 14 X more likely to look forward to coming to work every day and to want to remain with their companies for their entire career.

A key takeaway is that personal pride drives job satisfaction and performance regardless as to whether an employee works on-site or remotely, but company pride provides stickiness to a particular organization due primarily to its organizational culture, which was slightly higher for remote employees.

Conclusion

While this study represents the first step in our exploration of personal and company work pride, it suggests that fostering personal and workplace pride is critical in driving productivity, as well as attracting and retaining top talent.  Developing behavioral practices and a company culture that creates and facilitates employee pride are thus critical success factors. Following are some broad categories that companies can take to help positively impact employee pride in their work and organization:

Increase Employee Recognition

An expanded and more systematic focus on employee recognition at and between all levels of the organization will likely boost both pride in employees’ work as well as their company pride. Especially link that recognition to desired behaviors and results at the individual, group and organizational levels.

Expand Employee Communication

Raising employees’ awareness and their link to positive organizational efforts and activities regarding customer and market impact, social responsibility, and charitable contributions should increase employee work and company pride.

Encourage More Mindful Reflection

Asking employees to take time to reflect on their successes each day, as well as encouraging periodic team debriefings with a focus on learnings, and the role of the company in society should also help increase both personal and company pride.

These actions represent a good start on building and strengthening workplace pride.  This research also represents a baseline for additional research on the topic as well as a series of initiatives designed to translate these findings to individual industries and companies.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Bob Nelson, Ph.D. & Rick Garlick, Ph.D.

Dr. Bob Nelson is president of Nelson Motivation Inc, the leading authority on employee recognition and engagement, and a multi-million copy bestselling author of books on those topics (eg, 1,001 Ways to Engage Employees, 1,501 Ways to Reward Employees, and his most recent book: Work Made Fun Gets Done! Easy Ways to Boost Energy, Morale, and Results) that have been published in over 30 languages. He has served as an HR Strategist for 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies and is an affiliate partner of WorkProud©, a leading employee recognition & engagement platform and app who sponsored some of the research referenced in this article (see www.workproud.com).  
 
Dr. Rick Garlick has over two decades of employee experience research, beginning with his work at The Gallup Organization in the mid-90s.  He has held leadership positions at Maritz CX, J.D. Power, and Magid, a boutique consumer insights and business consulting firm.  He currently serves as Chief Research Officer for the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) where he oversees key employee motivation research initiatives that advance the science of the industry. Dr. Garlick has served as chair of the Research Committee for the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association (HSMAI) Foundation Board and Meeting Professionals International (MPI).

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