The best way to improve your employees’ performances is to focus on motivating the “extra milers” in your organizations.
A new study out of the University of Iowa found that employees function better when team members who goes beyond their job descriptions—the extra milers—are in a central position in the workflow.
“The extra miler has more of an influence in the center because they have more contact with other workers and because others can see what they’re doing,” said lead researcher Ning Li, professor of management sciences in the Tippie College of Business. “Through this role modeling, everyone on the team becomes better. If the extra miler is on the periphery, they don’t come into contact with as many team members and nobody notices them.”
After studying 87 teams with an average number of eight members per team, the researchers found that extra milers showed two distinct behaviors—helping and voice.
“Helping behavior means they physically assist other workers with their jobs, for instance, if they’re overwhelmed, or out sick,” Li said. “Voice behavior means they provide leadership by speaking up to make constructive changes that provide a better workflow, or work with management to make the job easier for the workers.”
Li said the study suggest managers should organize their teams based on members’ individual characteristics and not treat employees as interchangeable.
“It demonstrates that you need to pay attention to key players in a team because some of them are more important than others,” Li said. “Management can rely on the extra miler to have a positive impact on the team and know that person will help to manage the team.”
(Image: Simon Chorley/Creative Commons)