Why do I care?
I think one of the most fascinating questions you can ask a colleague is “why do you come into work?” We don’t normally do it, do we? Stop for a while and have those kind of conversations. But whenever I’ve asked people that, they enjoy answering, they get pretty animated, and they get pretty honest.
I’ve had people go on five minute monologues of passion and wonder. And I’ve also had people look completely unashamed to say they only come in because they need money and are capable of the tasks that are put in front of them. Every answer is ok, every one is different, and every answer tells you a lot about what motivates that person.
Turning this question around and asking it of yourself is a lot harder.
What we do matters
Recently, Tom Loosemore — formerly of GDS, now of Co-Op — shared a presentation he gave on his work in Government over the last five years. Towards the end, he sent out a rallying cry for people to stop limiting themselves when they think about the potential for digital transformation. Because what we do matters, the prize is so much greater. And this really struck a chord with me. What we do does matter, a lot.
Motivation is a complex topic, but one of the easiest distinctions to make is between an external and internal (or intrinsic) purpose. Both are effective, if done well; but people enjoy work and are more committed if they can internalise the ask. In short, if people can align work to their own values, they are more motivated by it.
The public sector is often praised for the level of employee engagement in its purpose. What we do matters, and we can use this for incredible good. Civil servants come in every day to help people. Everyone who joins DWP from another organisation says the same thing: you can really tell people care about the Department’s mission.
So why do I come into work?
I come into work to help people.
When you boil it down, it’s quite simple really.
Helping DWP work in better, more innovative, more collaborative ways is important to me. Making sure that this Department is working together on the right stuff is a part of my job that I get passionate about. And making sure the big picture is always in mind — transforming citizen’s lives through transformed services — that really hits home.
When I ran Thornton Heath Jobcentre in South London, I was able to tap into all of this and really energise my team. You could see the impact on the local job market, and at the end of my time there, our Jobseekers Allowance caseload had dropped by the most in London, my team were happier, and I was fulfilled.
My role now is very different (I write more about it here), but those same motivations still apply. The picture is bigger — national delivery of modern digital services — and the team is bigger, but the motivation is the same.
In short, despite all of the brilliant work we do, we know we can do more. In DWP, we can have an incredible impact on the entire country by getting business transformation right. It may be an invisible contribution, and it might not be recognised, but in the future — six months, two years, five years — people’s lives will be better thanks to the work DWP is doing today.
Helping people. Helping our Department help the country. That’s what gets me up every morning.
How about you?
Turning this question inwards is not an easy thing to do — writing this post hasn’t been simple! But it’s so valuable, and it’ll help you understand your work even more.
Take the time out. Think about what gets you into work in the morning.
Why do you come into work?