Seven Ways to Motivate
by Bruce L. Katcher
Four out of ten employees do not feel their supervisor supports their
The challenging economy of the past few years has exacerbated the problem
of motivating employees. For many, rising health care costs have gobbled up
most of the meager raises they have received. Advancement opportunities have
been severely limited due to the lack of growth of their organizations. And
they have become disillusioned with management due to continuous reports about
the corruptness of senior management at many leading U.S. corporations. They
are feeling over worked, unappreciated, and under compensated.
How to Motivate Employees
Motivating employees today requires getting back to basics. Here are seven
- Actively Foster Employee Growth
Four out of ten employees do not feel their supervisor supports their growth.
Employees are more motivated when they know that by staying with the company
they will have an opportunity to grow. Yet when business is slow, organizations
are very quick to cut training. Our research shows that only half of all
employees feel that they are given the opportunity to learn new skills on
- Link Pay to Job Performance
Only 3 out of 10 employees feel that their company does a good job of linking
their pay to their job performance. My son just returned home from his freshman
year at college. He is working at a retail store for the summer, his first
real job. As part of his training, he learned that every time he convinced
a customer to sign up for the company's credit card he would receive $5.
He was also told that he would receive another $10 for selling a few selected
products. He came home one day and said, "Dad, these incentives REALLY are
motivating me. I had learned in my economics class that incentives are one
of the 10 Guiding Economic Principles but now I really see it." He added,
"I wake up each morning and think about how can I make more of these sales."
- Set Clear Performance Expectations
One of the reasons employees don't believe that their pay is tied to job
performance is because they have never been told exactly what is expected
of them. If they don't know what is expected, they won't know what they
need to do to be viewed as a good performer. Management merely assumes that
employees know what is good job performance and what is not. If job standards,
criteria for success, and specific performance levels are not made clear
and specific, employees will not be motivated to perform well.
- Provide Employees with the Opportunity to Fully Use their Skills
One-third of all employees do not feel they are being fully utilized. It
is important to employees that they feel as though they are fully using
their valued skills and abilities on their job. If they are not, they will
quickly lose interest in their work. To fully utilize the skills of employees,
ask them what else they would like to do and provide them with opportunities
to use these skills.
- Enrich Jobs
One-third of employees do not feel they have the decision-making authority
they need to do their jobs well. To enrich a job, provide employees with
challenge, autonomy, personal growth, and more of a say in how their work
- Help Employees Feel Part of a Winning Team
Ever notice how winning teams have a tradition of winning and losing teams
have a tradition for losing? Success breeds success. Employees desperately
want to be part of a winning team. However, senior management more often
communicates failures than successes. Share the good news and thank employees
for their contributions. Doing so will help improve employee motivation.
- Help Employees Feel That Their Work is More than Just a Job
There were three movers in front of a moving van. One was asked, "What are
you doing?" He responded, "I'm just putting in my time for this moving company."
He added, "The more hours I work, the more money I make." The second mover
was asked the same question. His response, "I am moving these boxes from
the truck to the house." The third mover responded, "What I am doing is
very important. I am helping a young family start a new life for themselves
here on the east coast."
Which mover do you think is more motivated?
It's easy for employees to lose site of the fact that no matter what their
actual work involves, they are performing a more important function for
Motivating employees today is particularly challenging. To do so, get back
to the basics. Link pay to job performance and help employees grow, feel part
of a winning team, and see the value of their work.
Dr. Bruce Katcher is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and President
of The Discovery Group. He has more than two decades of experience conducting
employee opinion and customer satisfaction surveys. Prior to founding The
Discovery Group, Bruce headed up the Organization Research and Development
consulting practice of the Boston office of The Wyatt Company. Visit The
Discovery Group for additional information.
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