Motivating Employees to Perform Their Best: Lessons from the Top 1%

Employers spend a lot of money hiring the right employees.  We here at The WorkPlace Group devote ourselves to helping our clients hire only the best.  With the hundreds of thousands of candidates we recruit, screen and evaluate each year, we thought it would be helpful to provide some examples of how those in the top 1% of their field manage to perform their best.  Lessons from the best in their field provides great insight into how employers can shape their culture by motivating employees and join the ranks of the top 1%.

Motivating Employees: Part I –  TV Soap Star from Emmy Award winning show, Days of Our Lives

The WorkPlace Group recently had an opportunity to have lunch with a veteran soap opera actress from Days of Our Lives onset at NBC Burbank Studios in Los Angeles, CA.  She also introduced us to Days of Our Lives staff members who gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the studio operation where we met many cast and crew members.

Although we did not get to witness an actual on-set scene, the general demeanor of the crew and cast members we did meet were gregarious, upbeat, full of energy and incredibly engaged.

Most of us don’t think of a television soap opera as just a day in the office.  We’re not watching Days of Lives thinking, “Is she having issues with her colleagues or manager?  Any water cooler gossip or office politics going on?  How often does she have a performance review meeting?  How much work does she have to do get done by tomorrow? What are her annual performance expectations and how is Days of Our Lives developing her for her next promotion?”

Nonetheless, soap operas are major companies.  The actors and actresses, writers, directors, producers, stylists, publicists, editors, film crew and all the other functions that bring the story to life are no different than departments like customer service, communications, engineering, and IT — although maybe a bit less glamorous than cameras, lights and the red carpet.

When we asked our long-term, successful soap star about her typical work day and what it’s like to work for Days of Our Lives, we captured a number of important messages and observations about how she continues to perform her best and several important aspects of how her employer enables her success.  Here are a few important takeaways for employers to nurture in their own corporate culture in order to bring out the best by motivating their employees:

  1. Teach employees to create and own their self-development plan
    Our soap star neither waits nor expects Days of Our Lives to develop her professionally.  Instead, she develops herself.  For example, she has continued to take acting lessons for almost all of her 15+ years on-set even though she is one of the most well regarded stars on daytime TV.  The scenes written and presented to her push her to new limits, but ultimately she is in charge of building her own skill set.  And, as her skillset develops and she steps up to the plate for those challenging, complex, dramatic moments, the writers, directors, and producers provide her with more and more opportunities.From a corporate perspective, this is equivalent to providing employees with an opportunity to take on tasks and challenges outside of their role to evaluate if they are ready for a step up prior to promoting them for excelling in the role they are currently in. Freedom of creativity and expression can be an important factor in motivating employees.
  2. Ensure employees are aware of how their behavior impacts their employer’s costs and revenues
    Showing up late to the set can cost the producer $1,000 per minute lost.  With dozen of scenes to shoot in a day, staying on time is imperative.When we asked our soap star friend about taking sick days and what happens when she needs a day off, we were surprised to hear that she has never taken a sick day in the past 15+ years despite the fact that she suffers from occasional migraines.  Our soap star said, “I never call out sick because it will cost my employer thousands of dollars for my absence, as my employer still needs to pay everyone who is in my scene or connected with something I contribute to.” It was a real surprise how readily she knew what a sick day or day out of the office would cost her employer and an even bigger surprise to hear that she cared about her employer’s costs.Our veteran soap star articulated the importance of being on-time, prepared with her script memorized, and ready to work.  It’s not only expected and preferred by her employer, but also sets the stage for her colleagues to perform at their best.  Being unprepared with lines means re-doing scenes; in the corporate world this is equivalent to re-doing meetings and project plans. Unprepared actors interrupt the natural flow of creating great scenes; or below standard / poor work product as we call it in the corporate world.  Unprepared actors cause everyone, including film crew, directors, editors and fellow actors, to fall behind.  In the corporate world this means reduced efficiency as a result of increased production costs and delays in key deadlines.
  3. Ensure employees understand how their contributions add to and shape the final product.
    Like most things in life, the inherent value of individuals working together results in a more valuable work product, whether it’s content, a physical item or a service.In the world of daytime television, great scenes increase viewers, which increase advertising revenues and other kinds of revenue streams, adding significant value to shareholders. This is no different than a business unit or department working on developing or improving a product or service.  There’s superior value in creating products or services and providing experiences that trump your competition.  The soap star shared that when filming a scene, it’s the actors who bring it to life and make it feel real.  Only by playing off of each other can the audience feel and experience the emotional connections.

 Our takeaway from her basic message was that everyone needs to know the direct way in which they impact the final product.  The quality of the work product is dependent on each other whether it’s building a product or delivering a service. By motivating employees to perform their best with these steps, you may see an increase in productivity and sales.

Coming soon, Part II –  Motivating Employees to Perform Their Best: Lessons from a Rock Star

For more information on how to hire great talent please contact The WorkPlace Group.

Note: The views and opinions expressed are strictly of the author and not endorsed, promoted, or provided by Days of Our Lives, NBC or any of their affiliates, employees or stakeholders.
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