In the first blog in this series, we went over what flow is, how it can benefit employees and your company, as well as the four phases of flow. In this blog, we will go over the conditions needed to create a state of flow.
How do you motivate blue collar workers? Construction workers? Factory workers? The kind of work environment you create can have a big effect on motivation levels. If your work setting facilitates flow state, you’re going to have happier workers who are far more productive.
To get into the state of flow, a person needs to have a challenge that requires some skill. It’s important that the challenge is not too simple or too complex for the individual. According to Csikszentmihalyi, the creator of the term “flow,” it’s “a constant balancing act between anxiety, where the difficulty is too high for the person’s skill, and boredom, where the difficulty is too low.”
Csikszentmihalyi gave these specific conditions that create the opportunity for the onset of flow, which are valuable to know in running any company.
- Specific, clear goals
- Availability of immediate feedback
- An appropriate match between the challenge and a person’s skill
- Coming together of action and awareness
- A strong focus on the task at hand
- Perception that one is in control of the situation
- Loss of consciousness of one’s self
- Absorption into a task that allows one to lose track of time
- Intrinsic motivation
How do Csikszentmihalyi’s specific conditions translate to creating flow within your company?
Knowing what flow is, the phases of flow, and the conditions that allow a person to enter into flow, you may be wondering how you can encourage flow as you are leading blue collar workers.
The points below tie into Csikszentmihalyi’s nine points above.
Flow within your company:
1. Create clear company goals
Set clear goals for your contractors and employees. Rather than work being something they have to invest energy into to achieve a leader’s goals, create organizational goals as well as team goals. Encourage your employees to align with the goals of the company. And give feedback that is clear, encouraging and constructive as they work toward those company goals. It’s important that employees feel a sense of ownership in the goals of the company, but also autonomy with healthy accountability.
2. Give feedback immediately
Performance reviews are great, but they are not the only or best way to give feedback. Recognizing an employee, mentoring or coaching them, and supporting employees engaging with each other can be a positive form of motivation. This can be done via a peer feedback program or through a company-wide initiative. A great example of this is video games. When a person plays a video game, they get real, in- time feedback on their progress and how they are doing in the game. The best work environments are similar. The key to remember is that the performance, not the person, is being evaluated.
3. Be aware of employees’ strengths and weaknesses
It’s important to be aware of your employee’s strengths and weaknesses so that you can match their talent to the right job within the company. Not everyone is meant to be a shift lead and not everyone is meant to interact with customers. The balance between being challenged by a task, and having the skill set for success in the task, is a big key to flow.
4. Align thoughts, intentions, feelings, and senses
Tasks that are performed with ease are not often associated with flow. It’s important to match awareness with action. If a task is done repetitively, it’s not likely to promote a flow state. Tasks that encourage concentration and discipline, ones in which thoughts, intentions, feelings, and senses are aligned on achieving the same outcome, create the harmony needed to encourage the state of flow.
5. Encourage employees to develop willpower
Help employees to be in the present moment by encouraging them to be thoughtful with where they put their attention. If any employee is overwhelmed, it’s important to encourage them to focus on something else. It’s also important to help them minimize distractions and, as noted above, encourage them to focus on overall future team goals and how they are helping work toward those goals. These factors cultivate willpower in your employees.
6. Promote executive function
Control of our inner emotions depends on understanding the ownership, having a sense of independence, and learning how to master skills. This encourages what is known as executive functioning. It’s what allows us to use self-control, especially when a situation for the potential of heightened emotions comes up. Allow your employees to practice some autonomy within the workplace and minimize micro-managing.
7. Worry less!
Worrying about rules, expectations, and how others perceive us can prevent us from getting into the state of flow. Encouraging employees to focus on what they can control, themselves and their own reactions and behaviors, will allow them to build that sense of self-control and worry less.
8. Allow for flexibility
When possible, allowing employees to have flexibility with their schedules and project time is important. When we are responding to our internal clocks and not to external pressure, we often produce better results in our work. One of the best indications that an employee is in a deep state of flow is when the perception of time is distorted or lost.
9. Internal motivation is key
Research shows that when motivation is internal, instead of external, it is more powerful. Internally motivated employees will typically have greater long-term outcomes and pursue goals more efficiently. This is because internal motivation often allows us to feel both autonomous and competent. One of the keys to encouraging internal motivation is to cultivate flow, in the ways noted in the first 8 points above.
Creating the conditions for flow within your company is what will allow for long-term growth and overall success. Flow encourages employees to engage in work in an efficient and productive manner. It also creates a sense of autonomy and accomplishment and fosters a healthy workplace environment. These are all important for employee happiness, retention, and productivity.