Friday, October 9, 2015

Understanding Employees Secret Motivations with Freud's Unconscious and Markov's Hidden Method

Sigmund Freud-Medical Doctor
Employee motivation is something managers find difficult to tap and grow. Those organizations that can keep their highest potential workers motivated and engaged will often find the results superseding their expectations. Each employee comes with certain wants needs and desires that when in alignment with the workplace create higher levels of performance and satisfaction. The discoveries of Sigmund Freud's unconscious motivations and Andrey Markov's mathematical chains help us understand and evaluate latent employee processes.

Sigmund Freud was a medical doctor that believed in three innate structures of the mind that include the conscious, pre-conscious and the unconscious. The conscious is what we are aware of, the pre-conscious can be remembered quickly with priming, and the un-concious is buried.

The un-conscious contains our employees needs, wants, and desires. What we see on the surface is not really the true personality as that which we get a hint of through their unconscious. Frued states, "We are probably far too much inclined to over estimate the conscious character even of intellect and artistic productions"(Freud,1920).

 Each employee has latent or hidden needs  that they may or may not be presently aware of. As they make decisions, choices, and put forward effort their unconcscious needs become apparent to those who are perceptive. Each action is a glimpse to an internal motivations the person uses to make decisions.

Each decision and action can lead to greater insight of the "true" character and ability of the person. As the person navigates his or her environment they leave a trail of decisions, actions, and comments. Some are stand alone but others create a pattern of behavior.

The hidden Markov method can be used to detect and understand these processes better. Hidden means that the initial factor may not be known but the outcome is. In other words, the latent mental process is not known but the actual actions in our environment can be tracked leading to performance predictions.

Andrey Markov-Mathemetician
The hidden Markov mode has been used successfully in smaller scale projects like education and learning. Models can be used to uncover hidden Markov processes using activity logs and data (Biswas, 2010). Over time these create a pattern and reflect deeper metacognitive processes that can reflect future performance and behavior.

The process doesn't need to be as formal as a Markov Method. Companies often engage in psuedo research through observations that take the form of probationary periods, performance appraisals, surveys and employment histories. Each leads to greater insight into which processes the employee is using to make decisions and their likelihood of such performance in the future.

Knowing what motivates your employees is beneficial for designing tasks around their abilities, goals, and knowledge. Creating an alignment between the employee and their environment leads to meaningfulness that takes the form of skill variety, task identity, and task significance (Hackman & Oldham, 1980).

It would be difficult to follow and study individual employees on this level unless they have high value or worth to the organization. However, all managers should have some knowledge of how and their employees think and what they believe in order to motivate them. The impetus of engaging, knowing and understanding people is one of the biggest parts of proper management.  Perception and active listening can get you the basic idea without the need for scientific evaluation.

Biswas, et. al. (2010). Measuring self-regulation learning skills through social interactions in a teachable agent environment. Research & Practice in Technology Enhance Learning, 5 (2).

Frued, S. (1920) Dream Psychology Psychoanalysis for Beginners. NY: The James A McCaan Company.

Hackman, J. & Oldham, G. (1980). Work Design. NJ. Pearson Education.

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