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Implementation - How to motivate your staff

Regardless of which theory of employee motivation is followed, the outcomes of research conclude that interesting work, appreciation, pay, good working conditions, and job security are important factors in helping to motivate. Phil Kerslake (2002), General Manager of DTZ New Zealand found in his 2001 surveys of Australasian employee attitudes that "most people were shown to have ambitions and be prepared to put some job and income security at risk if there is the opportunity to nourish their self-esteem and achieve a degree of self fulfilment".

To ensure that strategies used to enhance motivation within your organisation obtain the most effective results they should based be on:

  • An analysis of the factors that individual staff members believe are motivators for them
  • The performance objectives of the individual
  • The strategic goals of the organisation
  • The values and culture of the organisation

Lindner highlights the importance of considering individual staff in his comment "The key to motivating (centres) employees is to know what motivates them and designing a motivation program based on those needs - employees must be willing to let managers know what motivates them, and managers must be willing to design reward systems that motivate employees".

Jim Clemmer (2004), a writer and motivational speaker states "When confronting morale problems, managers will often succumb to the Victimis virus and blame the declining work ethic, attitudes of entitlement, softening values, the welfare state, or any number of societal factors. But these factors- which are mostly about doing the least work for the most money - are more imagined than real". He further states "Studies show that people's real needs are much less mercenary than most managers believe. People want to take pride in their work, belong to a winning team and be part of an organisation they can believe in. In fact, the morale crisis so prevalent in organisations today is primarily the result of disappointment in these needs not being met".

Paul Falcone (2002), Director of Employment and Development at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood writes that "As a supervisor, it always will be your toughest job to turn around people who have lost the motivation to make a positive contribution to the team. But contrary to popular perception, your job as a manager is not to motivate your staff. Motivation is internal. Instead, you are responsible for creating an environment in which people can motivate themselves. And this can be done without relying on merit increases, incentives and bonuses". He suggests that managers need to focus on the top non-monetary motivating factors of (a) open communication, (b) recognition, (c) career developments plans, and (d) the ability to make a difference at work.

There are some key actions that managers and leaders can take to assist in making a difference in the motivation levels of their employees. These include: 

  • Lead by example - be passionate and energetic
    If business leaders wish to have motivated, passionate and energetic staff, Max Messmer (2002) CEO of Robert Half International Inc and author of 'Motivating Employees for Dummies' highlights the importance of being motivated, passionate and energetic as a leader yourself, and about your organisation, your staff, and the work that they do. As such, leaders should demonstrate the attitudes, values, actions, and mindsets that they wish staff to develop and demonstrate. Andrew Richter (2003), Vice President of Compensation at American TV company NBC and Board Member of WorldatWork highlights the importance of leadership and motivation at work "Exit interviews and other studies confirm that better people managers retain talent and get better results than those less skilled in this field. Better people managers create job satisfaction and more challenging work. They are also the front line providing recognition and rewarding creativity. In fact, they play a central role in most of the elements of the work experience". Patti Holmes (2002), President of Holmes Training and Development also highlights the importance of a leader's attitude and the effects of this on those around them "The attitude you bring to life and to your work will be reflected in the performance of those who work for you - your attitude affects your effectiveness" and because leaders are a role model for their employees they can take their cues for how to behave and act in the workplace from those that manage them. 
  • Show trust and respect
    An environment where it is safe to take risks and staff are trusted to try new things can be inspiring and motivate employees to try out new ideas and improvement initiatives. Discussion should occur where new ideas are tried but fall short of expectations so that lessons can be learned and applied to future ideas. Messmer highlights creating a 'safe-to-risk environment' and comments "Allow employees to take prudent risks in their work. By demonstrating trust in your staff you'll inspire them to develop creative solutions to problems". He also writes "Make sure they keep you informed, but don't micromanage their efforts" and "When mistakes are made, focus on what can be learned from the process instead of placing blame".
  • Act as an advocate
    Where communication with other departments, external organisations or suppliers, and customers is required, leaders should act as an advocate for their employees and be a visible champion for them.
  • Provide competitive and realistic salaries
    In his article 'Six Dangerous Myths About Pay' Jeffrey Pfeffer (1998) warns "Much of the conventional wisdom and public discussion about pay today is misleading, incorrect, or sometimes both. The result is that business people end up adopting wrongheaded notions about how to pay people and why". Discussing his 6th myth - People work primarily for money, he writes "People do work for money-but they work even more for meaning in their lives. In fact, they work to have fun."

Messmer notes that "Under-paying staff sends the message that your firm doesn't value their work". In fact, Richter identifies that "Companies who regularly conduct exit interviews for those who voluntarily resign invariably find that dissatisfaction with immediate management and career development opportunities available elsewhere usually dwarf pay as a reason for leaving".

However, writers for Accel-Team.com's website note that although money is not a prime motivator "this should not be regarded as a signal to reward employees poorly or unfairly". In fact, according to Herzberg's theory of motivation, pay and benefits are considered a hygiene factor. Where these factors are applied effectively, they can at best prevent dissatisfaction and if applied poorly, they can result in negative feelings about the job.

Employee pay strategies should be in line with current industry standards, should be robust and simple to operate, explain, and control, be able to accommodate specific employment needs (e.g. expert or difficult to fill positions) and be related to performance (e.g. individual and teams).

  • Reward achievements
    Messmer states "Keep in mind that a simple 'thank you' still goes a long way with employees. Your employees will be more motivated to work hard if they know you recognise and appreciate their contributions". Rewards do not need to be costly to have an impact, but if valued and appreciated by staff they can have a significant impact on motivation. In a survey conducted by Messmer, employees ranked a personal 'thank you' as the most sought after form of recognition, followed by a handwritten note of appreciation from the boss.

Rewards may be individually and/or team-based and can include such things as movie tickets, thank you cards, parking spaces, award ceremonies, mention of achievements in company newsletters and meetings, holidays, cash bonuses, and the like. Smith also recognises that rewards do not need to cost a lot of money in order to motivate. He does suggest that "To be successful, a motivator needs to energize employees.  The best way to do this is through an activity that is enjoyable or that rewards employees".

  • Job enlargement and enrichment
    Lindner suggests "Options for job enlargement, job enrichment and promotions should be considered". Job enlargement can provide opportunities to make work more interesting by increasing the number and variety of activities performed, and job enrichment can also make work more interesting and provide opportunities for increased pay and responsibility. Secondments, mentoring and standing-in for colleagues on leave are suggested methods. Enlarging and enriching jobs can add variety in the way the job is done, the tools that are used, the place where the work is carried out, and the people with whom the employee meets.
  • Redesign jobs
    Redesigning jobs to expand opportunities for self-control, self-direction, challenge, increased responsibility, and learning can have an impact on motivation and are methods suggested by Herzberg's theory. Input should be sought from employees on the ways in which their jobs could be streamlined, extended, or modified in order to add challenge, interest, and control.
  • Provide the resources and support
    The resources and support required by staff to complete their jobs to the level required by the organisation should be provided. Restrictions that are preventing people from doing the best job possible should be removed. This may include modification of work-spaces, the use of mentoring and coaching, additional funding.
  • Plan for advancement opportunities and support mentoring
    Employee motivation can be enhanced by providing opportunities for challenge and advancement within the organisation.

Mentoring can have positive motivational spin-offs for both the mentor and the staff member being mentored. Mentors can benefit from sharing their knowledge and expertise and this added responsibility can add to their feelings of being recognised as well as providing job enrichment opportunities. For those being mentored, working with an experienced staff member can add challenge, provide job enlargement, enrichment, and feedback opportunities. 

  • Provide professional development opportunities
    Professional development opportunities such as mentoring, attendance at training programmes, and onthe- job training can be a key motivator for many individuals. These activities enable staff to achieve workrelated and professional goals, work towards (or achieve) advancement in the organisation, enlarge or enrich their work roles and functions, achieve greater responsibility and trust, gain recognition, and add more interest to their work.

In relation to training, Falcone suggests that employers view employees as resume builders who will stay and prove their worth as long as they are on the fast track. He indicates that a key to keeping staff is to prevent them from looking elsewhere by providing the chance to reach their career goals within their own organisation "People are much more inclined to feel like they're making a positive contribution if they're in a learning curve". 

  • Promote and provide two-way feedback
    Feedback on performance is important to ensure individuals know their strengths and opportunities for improvement. Use of the organisation's formal performance appraisal system should be encouraged to ensure regular and specific feedback is given. However, this should be supplemented by periodic informal discussions and as opportunities arise e.g. at the end of a project. 
  • Encourage the use of humour and creativity
    Messmer notes "Incorporating humour into the workplace can alleviate stress and create a more positive environment for everyone". Strategies to enhance humour include having a daily cartoon sent to all staff via e-mail, encouraging laughter, finding fun in events that did not turn out as planned or expected etc..
  • Address stress and burnout
    Stress can have both a positive and a negative effect on employee motivation. Certain levels of stress can enhance work outputs, but above an individual's threshold it can lead to a decrease in both quality and quantity of work. To enhance motivation, employers should consider setting work goals and targets with employees - these should stretch their abilities and be jointly set and agreed. Where necessary use temporary help during crisis or high workload periods, and make it easy for staff to voice the fact that they are stressed.
  • Implement work/life balance initiatives
    Work/life practices are those that help employees juggle their responsibilities at work with those outside of work. It is now widely accepted that external pre-occupations can cause stress, absenteeism, resignations, altered work performance, and reduced motivation. Working from home, part time working, child care facilities, flexible working schedules and the like can have a positive impact on employee motivation and reduce the impact of external, non-work issues.


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