Since 2021, our team at Ambition In Motion has been implementing our AIM Insights program
within many companies to help their managers better understand the perception between themselves and their direct reports and provide coaching to help those managers have more effective 1:1 meetings between themselves and their teams.
One area of measurement we focus on is Work Orientation. Simply put, Work Orientation is how a person views work as part of their life. This quick 15-question assessment helps people understand their why for work. Some people view their work as a Job (motivated by work/life balance), while others as a Career (motivated by professional growth), and others as a Calling (motivated by professional and personal mission alignment). We repeatedly measure the work orientation of our participants, and this has revealed a few fascinating insights.
One finding is that Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it can change overtime. When originally completing the Work Orientation Assessment, 64% of direct reports’ results showed that they were mostly Career Oriented, 20% of direct reports’ results showed that they were Calling Oriented, and 22% of direct reports’ results showed that they were Job Oriented.
After assessing a sample set of 164 direct reports that completed monthly surveys for at least a year, we have discovered some interesting results. After one year working under a manager using AIM Insights, the results showed that Calling Orientation increased by about +5%, Career Orientation increased by +6%, and results that showed Job Orientation decreased by -12.5%. As people work with AIM Insights managers, we see that their motivation for work changes.
We have also analyzed over 4,000 individuals’ Work Orientations - observing changes to peoples Work Orientation over the span of year that are not in our AIM Insights program. The results are that Work Orientation is changing for those individuals, but not nearly all in the same direction as direct reports in our AIM Insights program (i.e., increased focus on Career and Calling Orientations).
What does this mean?
The employees who are using AIM Insights and receiving feedback from their managers using AIM Insights are more likely to find their motivation as work to be from a career or calling orientation. This means that employees are more interested in promotions, more interested in the mission/vision/core values of the company, and are more likely to recommend the company to their friends and family for employment or for referring business. This helps them view their work as a career or calling instead of a job. They want to step up and do more than the bare minimum to get by. They are more eager to take on responsibilities and roles for the opportunity to learn. And they are more likely to put more into their work because they see the work contributing to something greater than themselves.
What could be the cause of these results?
We believe these changes are caused by the training and support that managers receive when using AIM Insights. We know it takes more than luck to build a great team, and these managers are clearly building great teams. Here’s how it works:
AIM Insights has a few important components:
• Direct reports of a manager complete brief monthly surveys assessing how they feel about their performance and their manager’s performance, and then they set monthly SMART goals.
• Managers use the AIM Insights dashboard to review their monthly report and analyze their own perspective on the team’s performance and the individual performance.
• An executive coach, assigned to each manager for monthly 1-hour 1:1 coaching sessions, helps each manager:
• Understand the perception gaps between themselves and their teams.
• Create an action plan with the manager on how they can approach each direct report to better understand their perspective and communicate their own.
• Oftentimes role play or practice how that 1:1 could go from a best, moderate, and worst-case scenario with the manager.
• Discuss other challenges that manager may be facing from an executive coaching perspective.
Across all the teams we assessed, the only meaningful change to the way the direct reports of a manager experienced their work was how their manager treated them after starting AIM Insights. Here are a few findings that we’ve identified by working with our executive coaches.
• As opposed to avoiding conflict because managers are uncomfortable with difficult conversations, managers are now embracing those conversations leading to better resolutions.
• As opposed to fumbling through an attempt at having a hard conversation because the manager didn’t practice nor received feedback from anyone, managers are now coming prepared for their 1:1 meetings with their direct reports.
• As opposed to waiting to see if a subtle behavior that irritated the manager turns into a larger problem because the manager doesn’t know how to approach a direct report with constructive criticism, managers are now targeting these conversations head-on and coming into those meetings prepared.
• As opposed to having performance reviews rife with subjectivity and recency bias (e.g. the “what have you done for me lately” effect) managers are now coming into performance reviews prepared with full understanding as to what each employee has been working on over entire period being reviewed.
• As opposed to the dreaded “surprise performance review” where direct reports feel blindsided by their manager, managers are now being proactive and helping each direct report emphasize their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Immediately discussing feedback ensures that managers and direct reports are completely on the same page and nobody is surprised by any feedback given in the performance review because that feedback has been given consistently throughout the year.
• As opposed to managers setting goals for their employees and being a “tactical firefighter” (e.g., “I don’t need to explain why this is important, just do it!”), managers now have their direct reports set goals and give their direct reports feedback on why those goals are impactful or not impactful and why. This empowers employees to have a clearer vision as to how their work contributes to the greater picture of the company.
• As opposed to managers attempting to “read the tea leaves” and going to their local soothsayer to attempt to understand how their employees are feeling about them as a leader, they can directly look at the data and observe how their team feels about them and where there might be perception gaps.
Essentially, managers who use AIM Insights with their teams drive greater feelings of Career and Calling Orientation over the span of year compared to managers who don’t use AIM Insights.