A question often asked of us by executives is, “What can I do to energize and effectively motivate my employees to work their hardest for my organization?” Our answer starts with a quote from Bill Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett Packard:
“Men and women want to do a good job, a creative job, and if they are provided the proper environment, they will do so.”
We, too, believe firmly that people want to do a good job because they want to feel competent. An important component of feeling competent entails doing one’s job well. Before beginning, we want to emphasize that every one of the suggestions we offer is essential for providing the proper environment. The absence of any one of them cannot be compensated for by the presence of the others.
A well-known management theorist, Frederick Herzberg once said, “If you want someone to do a good job, give them a good job to do.” We admit that some jobs are intrinsically boring and monotonous, and that little or nothing can be done to make them more challenging. But, the vast majority of jobs can be enriched by either designing or redesigning them in a way that employees derive more:
- Opportunity to use a variety of their skills & talents
- Satisfaction of doing an identifiable piece of work from beginning to end
- Feeling of independence to handle their jobs their way
- Comfort in contributing, and belonging to, a team effort
- Clear information about their performance effectiveness from the work itself
Mueller Homes, Inc. has been handcrafting custom homes and luxury estates for over 25 years. Recently, Paul Mueller, Jr. has enriched the job of one of his team members. This has given her an increased feeling of autonomy to get her job done her way.
It’s a fact that all human behavior is influenced by its consequences. If an organization rewards employee behavior, that behavior is apt to be strengthened and repeated. If that same behavior is ignored or censured, it will weaken and eventually dissipate. As a result, it can be said that “you will get what you reward.” If you reward your top performers with merit increases, promotions, bonuses, and interesting projects, their level of motivation will be maximized.
We agree with Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, that if your organization will “differentiate” between its A performers (top 20 percent), B performers (the vital 70 percent), and C performers (bottom 10 percent), and reward them commensurate with their job performance, you’ll find that your employees gravitate toward being A players.
Growth and promotional opportunities rank highly on what most employees want from their jobs. Rarely do we encounter people who want to remain in the same job, doing the same things, year after year. As a result, world class organizations are now implementing various career development activities. These organizations help their employees to develop career paths that fit their individual needs.
For a work environment to be motivating, employees must believe that they are being treated fairly and consistently by their managers and supervisors. Employees become de-motivated when they perceive their salaries as unfair. This occurs when other employees with similar qualifications are receiving a higher salary, or employees who are less qualified are receiving the same salary. In addition, managers should not be perceived as “having pet employees” or behaving erratically from day to day.
Recent surveys indicate that most U.S. employees regard a “pat on the back” as a consequential incentive. Such things as personal thanks from one’s manager, public acknowledgements, awards for outstanding performance, and celebrations of group accomplishments have tremendous motivational impact. They are also easy and inexpensive to implement. Too often we’ve heard employees tell us that limited recognition and praise is the reasons for why they aren’t more motivated to work harder. Buck Wear, Inc. is a Baltimore-based company that is a large manufacturer of custom-designed casual wear. David Trapp, president and founder of Buck Wear, periodically has a monthly meeting with all of his employees to recognize and reward outstanding performers.
A motivating environment is one in which employees feel that their managers are accessible to them when they need support or advice, as well as listen to them. Motivating managers whom we have known “wander about” with employees and have an open-door policy..
We, as organizational psychologists, know that a person’s behavior is regulated by their individual goals and intentions. We also know that performance goals maximize employee motivation when they are: set jointly by the employee and manager, specific, and challenging.