Every person is motivated by either pain or pleasure. Today, many employees are motivated to work hard due to the pain that can be associated with losing their jobs. The problem is that fear-based motivation is similar to that of “kick in the butt” theory of motivation — it only works as long as the fear of the kick is present.
The challenge is to motivate our workforce toward growth, not just survival. This requires nurturing of intrinsic motivation. To paraphrase motivation expert, Bob Nelson, it’s more powerful to light a fire within folks than underneath them. Here are five proven motivational pointers to keep in mind:
1. When people are doing work they can do well and enjoy doing well, they are naturally motivated. This holds true for every one of us. So begin by placing employees in this “sweet spot.” The challenge then becomes not to demotivate someone in this position. The excellent book Leadership and Self-Deception, states that we often deceive ourselves as not being the problem. When you’re running 75 miles an hour, most of us have little time for the positive and tend to deliver negative messages — usually when we react to someone stopping us from running. Praise, perhaps the most important motivational tool, gets short shrift when we’re running for our lives.
2. How you show you care isn’t as important as your effort to show you care. Study after study shows it’s not a specific motivation or retention program that works; it’s the desire and effort to have the program in the first place that makes a difference. What holds true for parenting and marriage also applies to managing: Begin by making an effort, any effort, to show that you care. One way to do this is to spend five minutes listening to someone. When was the last time you stopped running long enough to do that?
3. Engage your employees. You have a sales job to do and you want to know your employees’ fears and desires. Since management by control is dead, the only alternative is management by agreement. Make the employees part of the action in addressing productivity and other management concerns. HR That Works users should take a look at the White Paper: “Getting Your Employees to Think.” Encouraging employee thinking will motivate them.
4. Don’t forget the greenbacks. Money remains the No. 1 reason people go to work — always has been, always will be. But here’s the tipping point: Once folks are paid a “fair day’s wage,” money then falls off as a distant motivator — as a sense of belonging, ego gratification, self-actualization, and other motivators kick in. Make sure you pay a fair day’s wage by doing market surveys. What would you have to pay to hire any one of these employees today? Also, bear in mind that paying too far above grade is a waste of money that doesn’t benefit either the business or the employee.
5. Open the books. I’m a big fan of open book management as a motivational tool. Have your management team read Jack Stack’s Great Game of Business.
Conclusion: Stop running for five minutes, show your employees that you care, engage them, monitor your pay scales, and open the books. Now that’s a motivating formula!