Read an Excerpt
Best Practices: Motivating Employees
Bringing Out the Best in Your People
Most people in business would agree that the best employees are motivated ones. Motivated employees are the individuals who take the initiative, who want to do good work, who move up the ranks, and who are generally the most likely to succeed.
Employees who are motivated are loyal and dedicated and become ambassadors of good will for their companies. In fact, it's widely accepted that companies with motivated employees have lower turnover and tend to outpace their competitors in sales and profits. The more motivated your workforce is, the higher your organization's productivity will be.
Motivating employees, then, is recognizing that employees are essential to the company's ability to succeed. It is about building a corporate culture of people who want to be exceptional at their jobs and who are proud of where they work. Motivating employees is not about giving people something they do not deserve or showering them with benefits and rewards so they will work longer hours or accept poor working conditions.
Although it is important to keep motivated employees motivated, the larger challenge for managers is finding out what motivates the other employees. Motivation is a very personal thing. What motivates some employees won't motivate others. Yet there are certain motivators with such wide appeal that most everyone responds positively.
This book will look at many of these motivators. We'll also discuss what it takes to be a motivational manager, how to keep employee motivation from falling, and whymotivational leadership is essential.
As you consider how to motivate your employees, a basic understanding of the psychology of motivation is helpful.
The foundation of modern thinking about motivation is Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of needs," introduced in 1943 and still used by psychologists, business managers, marketers, and others to understand what motivates people. Maslow theorized that after humans have met their basic physiological needs, they want to satisfy successively higher social and spiritual needs. Maslow identified four levels of needs above the most basic needs for food, sleep, and sex. Maslow's hierarchy is often shown as a pyramid, with the basic needs at the base, and the need for self-actualization at the tip of the pyramid.
Applying Maslow's theories in the workplace provides some insight into what motivates your employees. All employees express a basic concern for job security (the "safety" level of Maslow's hierarchy). Once their need for job security is fulfilled, employees will then look for recognition and rewards for work well done (the "esteem" level). And if they feel both secure and recognized, they will be looking for job satisfaction (the "self-actualization" level), that is, the pleasure of growing within the job, the belief that the work is important to society, the sense that the work reflects the individual's values and goals. If you want engaged, motivated employees, make sure that they feel confident in their jobs; let them know you appreciate their effort, especially when it has been extraordinary; and give them opportunities to learn and grow, to take on projects that would be meaningful (socially or personally) and that would put them closer to achieving their goals.
Motivation on the Job
In a recent study, described in the book The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want (Wharton School Publishing, 2005), authors David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind, and Michael Irwin Meltzer identify three goals sought by most workers. Employees want equity (specifically, fair pay, benefits, job security), achievement (that is, to be proud of their work and their accomplishments, and, by extension, praise, recognition, and growth on the job), and camaraderie (cordial relationships with coworkers).
None of these goals is particularly surprising in and of itself. After all, it is only common sense that workers desire fair pay, job security, and benefits. These basic needs, in fact, are represented in the "safety" level of Maslow's hierarchy shown on page 7.
Similarly, it's easy to understand that workers want to have good relationships with the colleagues with whom they spend so much time, or that they want to take pride in their work and accomplishments. It follows that, if employees feel good about what they do at work, they will be more motivated to come to work the next day and do their best.
What is startling about Sirota, Mischkind, and Meltzer's study is their finding that to maintain motivation among employees, all three goals must be met. In the absence of just one of them, motivation wanes dramatically. Although motivation is high for most employees when they start a new job, the study reveals, it drops dramatically after just six months and keeps dropping after that.
In other words, the stakes are high. If you don't address these three motivational issues right away, you will face consequences.
Motivation is Management's Role
So what can a manager do to maintain a motivated workforce?
First, pay your people as well as you can. Do what it takes to provide benefits. Too expensive? Before you jump to that conclusion, weigh in the cost of hiring and training the constant round of new employees required to replace those who decide to leave.
Workers are frustrated by a lack of communication from management. Give them enough information to do their jobs properly and to make them feel respected and included.
Run an equitable workplace. Don't continue to pay people who don't pull their weight. Consider reward systems such as profit sharing based on individual and company performance. In some companies, employees are given stock options; ownership provides a sense of responsibility that in itself can be self-motivating. In addition, don't forget intangible benefits, which don't cost you a cent, such as providing a bit of flexibility for a parent who needs to take two hours off to see a child in a school play.
Second, don't treat employees as if they were disposable. Tread carefully around layoffs and reorganizations. Avoid them or handle them carefully if you can't: Remember that workers who remain . . .Best Practices: Motivating Employees
Bringing Out the Best in Your People. Copyright © by Barry Silverstein. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.