If you were John Veihmeyer, global Chairman and CEO of KPMG in the U.S., what motivational strategy do you think he would use to get 85% of his US workforce to endorse the firm is a great place to work?
As reported last year by Robert Hackett in Fortune, the Chairman proposed an art exhibition challenge … he called it the “10,000 stories challenge”. In June 2004 from the Top of the Rock in New York City he announced a goal: “if the company received 10,000 posters by Thanksgiving, everyone would earn two extra days of paid vacation.”
Was the challenge met? In one month … by July … more than 10,000 posters were submitted. By the time it ended in November, the company had received more than four times the challenge target!
What was the big deal? Why an art challenge? The posters were employee depictions of what motivated them at work .. how they expressed the purpose of their work for clients. In effect, management was asking them the big “why” question. A sample of poster headlines:
• We Champion Democracy
• I Revitalize Villages
• I Advance Science
• We Help Nations Heal
• I Help Farmers Grow
Veihmeyer, in the article, states: “I’ve always believed that culture is the most important dimension of any CEOs responsibility to an organization”.
I would presume that the culture priority is authentic at KPMG. Notice Veihmeyer did not propose an art competition … no, in this amazing story everyone wins. In fact, think about the thousands of employees who chose not to participate. In a sports context, even the bench players celebrate a win by the team. That’s good coaching, too. Another data point about the KPMG culture from the article: A shared leave program allows employees to donate unused paid time off to co-workers who might need it in an emergency. Last year (2014) workers gave 10,000 hours.
In conclusion, high purpose organizations operate, without external incentives, and at a higher RPM because purpose … or your cause … or bold vision … gives meaning to work. And that is the secret to passing the competition and retaining the best people.