Successful managers and companies around the world today are aware of the fact that people are vital to the success or failure of the company. Many Fortune 500 companies now include their human resources under ‘assets’ of the company. One can see companies becoming increasingly people-oriented, providing training and technology and investing in people. Rather than spending most of their time setting profit-goals, top-level executives of outstanding service organizations spend their time understanding that in the new economics of service, frontline workers and customers need to be the centre of management concern (Jerome and Kleiner, 1995).
The study of motivation is a science in itself, which incorporates aspects of human psychology, social and cultural factors and individual values and beliefs (Glen, 2006). In his paper, Glen (2006) explains that motivation can be either internal (pull factors) or external (push factors). Someone who is externally motivated depends on outside factors to push him or her to complete a task or project, or just to get out of bed and go to work in the morning; for example, the salary or wage packet required to pay the rent and buy the groceries, or perhaps the lure of the perks offered by the company (e.g. company car) or annual bonus. Being able to provide for one’s basic necessities in life is a legitimate reason to show up at the office or on the shop floor every day. So, realistically, most employees are somewhat influenced by external motivators. However, it becomes a major productivity problem for companies when external factors provide the only motivation for it’s’ employees. While life’s basic needs mean that most people desire employment, internal motivation is associated with wishing to be employed in a particular position by a firm whose organizational values and work requirements are closely aligned with the personal values and skills of its employees (Glen, 2006). He further goes on to state that internal motivation is associated with reduced employee absence, increased job satisfaction, high levels of creativity and a reduced need for direct supervision. Thus, it logically follows that employees who experience internal motivation enjoy their jobs, get on well with their colleagues and take pride in their work. Successful managers must therefore pay attention to factors that make employees feel valued, important and able.
The writer of this article seeks to present some practical means that can be easily employed to motivate and inspire one’s staff. These include issues concerning effective internal communications, staff orientations, staff consultations, staff appraisals, monetary incentives, staff empowerment, special employee programs/benefits, providing a dynamic environment in one’s workplace, creating internal talent markets and job re-design, and last but not the least, providing full appreciation of work done well.
I] Effective Communication
Myriad of literature in the field of employee motivation emphasizes the importance of clear and effective communication between various levels of management in a company. So much so, that it can safely be said that clear information exchange with and amongst employees is one of the most important and crucial factors.
Communication processes in organizations are complicated by the fact that employees, as individuals, have their own idiosyncrasies, biases, and abilities. Further, organizational characteristics such as hierarchy or specialization do not help in simplifying information flows (Smeltzer, 1996; Hunt, Tourish and Hargie, 2000). However, communication is the process most central to the success or failure of an organization (Hargie et al., 1999). It is through communication of one kind or another that employees learn what is expected of them, find out how to do their jobs, and become aware of what others think of their work (Orpen, 1997).
Kreps (1990), in his paper describes internal communication climates in organizations as their internal emotional tones; which dictate how comfortable members feel with one another and with the organization. He goes on to explain that this climate develops out of the behaviors and policies of organization administrators and the specific communication behaviors of organization members. Friendly climates encourage members to communicate in an open, relaxed and convivial manner with work colleagues; whereas negative climates discourage open and facilitative communication, waste time and resources, obviate goal accomplishments and sour work-place relationships. Hence, communication is not just important from the functional point of view of getting the message across, it is also central to the development and maintenance of positive working relationships, harmony and trust. The steps involved in developing an effective communication system include making communication a fundamental component of the management role, obtaining the commitment of top management and evaluating the communication process of all its members on a regular basis (Smith, 1990).
Organizational communication is only as good as interpersonal communication (Torrington and Weightman, 1994), with the former being dependant on the quality of the latter. Managerial communication is probably one of the most critical areas of organizational communication and it is the point at which managerial behavior can genuinely make a difference in influencing performance and employee attitudes (Klaus and Bass, 1982). However, to be effective, communication needs to be multi-directional; i.e. from management down, from operating levels up and from staff to staff (Reitzfeld, 1989).
In order to maintain employee motivation during and/or after their period of joining, the management should make a clear statement of the aims and objectives of the relative department of the employee; as well as how they fit with the objectives of the organization as a whole (Donelly, 1994). Employees should be encouraged to take ownership of these mission statements which should be widely communicated. Researchers in the field also strongly advocate that difficult issues should not be covered up for; rather they should be discussed through to a conclusion, however unpalatable (Donelly, 1994).
To conclude this section on communication, major de-motivators in any organization will always be frustration and uncertainty. One precondition for action which is critical and inescapable – a willingness and a desire by management at all levels to ask, to listen and to respond.
II] Orientation Programs
Another factor contributing towards employee motivation is staff orientation programs. Orientation programs are essential so that the incoming employee is made aware about the organization, its’ ethos, procedures, other fellow employees, their job profiles, etc. in the initial period without any room for ambiguity. These programs should ideally contain detail about the company history, philosophies and traditions. For the most part, employees gain an understanding of the company culture and how they fit into the larger picture, followed by more specific technical training related to their individual job descriptions. All employees need to understand policies and procedures of various departments with which they would have to deal, as well as the service standards which keep customers returning year after year. For example, at Disney, emphasis is placed on the importance of teamwork and maintaining a sense of humor to meet the stress and realities of working with thousands of “guests” each day (Jerome and Kleiner, 1995).
III] Consultations whilst making Strategic Decisions
The need for internal consultation in determining and communicating the organization’s objectives was recognized as a key motivator by Mike Donelly in 1994. Externally, the organization is exposed to prejudices, perceptions and preconceptions held by various people, which can result in staff demoralization. This is especially important when there has been limited involvement in defining the services or projects which have been public failures. The researcher found that issues affecting motivation and morale included the degree of delegation and the extent of two-way consultation in determining strategic direction. Failure here can lead to unclear and/or unfair division of responsibilities between employees. A culture of honesty, trust and openness in an environment which allows meaningful employee participation in decision making (for example, whilst setting out sales targets, etc.) would evoke high motivation among staff since this would give them a sense of belonging and importance.
Experts in the field of employee motivation have continually stated that job meaningfulness and psychological safety are two factors that are key to an employee’s sense of job involvement and consequently empowerment (McHenry, 1997; Powell, 2002). Meaningfulness is closely linked with motivation through challenge and self-expression, while the supportive function of psychological safety is characterized by recognition and role clarity which comes through regular and periodic appraisals (Powell, 2002). Employees need to know whether they performing adequately as per what was initially laid out for them; whether they are excelling in any particular duty according to the management or whether they can perform better in any assigned responsibility. The point here is to motivate the employee to perform more productively through accolades and constructive criticism.
Let’s take a case example of Knott’s Berry Farm to further illustrate this point. Knott’s Berry Farm have a programme where managers are responsible for recognizing employees who have provided a positive service experience to a customer (Jerome, Kleiner, 1995). This programme is carried out on a daily basis rather than periodically. Here, managers are encouraged to spend more time walking through the park than in their offices. They can recognize any employee performing well, even one not directly under them. They are issued business-size cards that have “Berry special service” on the front, and room on the back for the manager to fill in the positive customer interaction or behavior that was observed. The benefit is that employees are recognized immediately for outstanding work done (Jerome, Kleiner, 1995). This holds true even if an employee is caught not delivering services up to the standards of Knott’s Berry Farm.
The debate on the effectiveness of money as a motivator has been an old one amongst academics.Lawler (1973) is one of the strongest advocates of providing monetary incentives for desirable performance since money has certain optimal characteristics – it is valued by its recipient, the size of the reward can be flexible (unlike, for example, a promotion whose value remains relatively constant), and the relationship of money to performance is a very visible one. In certain jobs that do not offer factors or conditions to invoke intrinsic motivating factors, money plays an all important role as a motivator. Weaver (1988) suggests that direct cash rewards for above average productivity in these jobs is key (for example, hotel staff, cooks, drivers, sales staff, etc.) where the basic job does not change much among different companies and the staff feels little attachment to a particular company. “Where there is little pleasure in the work itself or the job offers little opportunity for career advancement, personal challenge or growth, hourly workers are working for their pay cheques” (Mullins, 1995).
Being given authority and charge gives employees a sense of ownership in their areas of operation which in turn increases motivation. Powell (2002) notices that organizations which are decentralized and more market-conscious are characterized by their flattened hierarchies, faster decision making, responsiveness to their environment and employee empowerment. Organizational concepts such as reengineering, downsizing, de-layering, horizontal rather than vertical structures are part of the vocabulary of modern management, yet their effects on employee motivation and consequent empowerment are less than well documented (Powell, 2002).
Furnham (1997) however warns organizations from the danger of “job title inflation”, while withholding promotion or career development.
VII] Special Employee Programs
To have satisfied employees and be successful, organizations need to have strong employee programmes. A commitment to people that is practiced throughout an organization will in turn produce positive service results (Jerome, Kleiner, 1995). If people enjoy the work environment, they are more likely to be in the frame of mind necessary to provide positive customer service. Through special employee programmes, companies can maximize job involvement and enrich the work environment. For example, the three most famous theme parks in the United States, viz. Disney, Sea World and Knott’s Berry Farms provide the following services and perks to their employees (Jerome, Kleiner, 1995):
- photo processing;
- entertainment, arts and sporting tickets;
- video tape sales;
- passes to the theme park for friends and family members;
- discount on company merchandise;
- special previews and parties when a new attraction opens;
- sporting leagues and recreational programmes.
Each of these services and perks motivates not only employees, but their family members as well. This not only enhances the understanding of one’s job, company and products; but also provides a sense of belonging and loyalty towards an organization since employees feel that the organization is making an effort to take care of them.
VIII] Providing a Dynamic Environment
A view of various researchers in the field of employee motivation is that rather than seeking formal educational, training and development opportunities; skilled, high-potential people (those likely to comprise the core of organizational talent) increasingly seek experience-based career opportunities to rapidly develop their careers, and to enhance their personal marketability (e.g. via participation in stretch roles, participation in split roles, lateral moves, participation in key organizational projects, etc.) (Glen, 2006). Visible more in developing economies, talented people choose to give up roles in larger corporate organizations in order to join smaller, flat-structured fast moving organizations that have fast business cycles (Glen, 2006).
It is recommended that, in order to retain and motivate this prized group of employees, organizations need to continually provide them with high-speed learning and self-marketability opportunities. By communicating these efforts of the company clearly during the recruitment process, during induction, and, by example in the workplace they can provide a very powerful attractive force for organizational talent – both externally and internally. In this way, team engagement, motivation, attendance and retention are all very likely to be enhanced.
Similarly, Wiley (1997) states that promotion and growth in the organization and interesting work are longstanding factors that motivate people to do their best. According to Herzberg’s Motivator-Hygiene Theory, the most successful method of motivating is to build challenge and opportunity for achievement into the job itself. Moreover, McClelland’s Socially Acquired Needs theory suggests that people with high achievement needs are motivated by challenging tasks with clearly attainable objectives, timely feedback and more responsibility for innovative assignments (Wiley, 1997). IX] Internal Talent Markets and Job Re-design Internal talent markets are another way for managers giving employees the opportunity to find the niche where they can fully utilize their talents in an optimal manner and thus realize internal motivation (Glen, 2006). This could be done through simple methods such as posting all vacancies on an internal web site and inviting interested employees to send in their CVs. Big companies have formalized the process so that along with internal advertising and the acceptance of unsolicited CVs, a certain amount of internal head-hunting goes on (Glen, 2006). Where managerial candidates are invited to apply, HR can help to identify key features which match the job and identify internal candidates with those characteristics.
Job re-design also features within this section of motivation. The aim of job redesign is to enrich a job so that the employee is more motivated to do the work. Job redesign tenets may be found in contemporary management strategies (Wiley, 2007). Workers who are more involved in their jobs display more work commitment and lower turnover (Jauch and Sekaran, 1978).
X] Full Appreciation for Work Well Done
The need to feel appreciated is deeply ingrained in all employees. Being appreciated through praise helps employees develop a positive self-concept and it meets their needs for esteem, self-actualization, growth and achievement (Lussier, 1997). It is very important to recognize performance of special merit which goes beyond the requirements of the job description on which the employee was appointed and pay rates established and accepted (Rabey, 2001). If initiative is to be encouraged, more recognition needs to be given to the demonstration of it. In a research conducted by Wiley in 1997, it was revealed that employers seldom acknowledge appreciation for employees’ work; and, when they do, it is done poorly. More than 80 per cent of supervisors interviewed by Wiley claimed they frequently express appreciation to their subordinates, while less than 20 per cent of the employees report that their supervisors express appreciation more than occasionally. Another report by Kovach (1987) stated that managers were not doing a good job of satisfying the ego or self-fulfillment needs of their sub-ordinates. In most organizations recognition is reserved on the positive side for only a very small minority of super-achievers and on the negative end, for the problem employees. But, the average worker on whose efforts the daily operation of the business depends often goes unrecognized (Wiley, 1997). The three important principles to remember when expressing appreciation are to describe the desired behavior in specific terms, to explain why the behavior was helpful and actually to express thanks (Cherrington, 1992).
Appreciation for a job well done is probably the most powerful, yet least costly and most underused motivation tool. Positive feedback follows the principles advocated in Reinforcement Theory, which states that behavior is contingent on reinforcement (Wiley, 1997). Examples of positive reinforcement in this context may include workplace visits by top executives to high-performance employees, personal handwritten notes of thanks accompanying paychecks, and telephone calls by top executives to employees at home (Knippen and Green, 1990; Steele, 1992).
In conclusion, it can be stated that motivating staff to improve involves many interlinking factors. This article has scratched the surface by identifying and describing major factors, each of which has highly practical implications. In any company, matching the right person with the right job, valuing employees and enabling them to make meaningful contributions to the organization are all ways to create a motivated work force (Glen, 2006). Internal motivation creates hard workers because of the kick that employees get from a job well done rather than working solely to pick up a paycheck every month. Managers need to remember that happy, motivated employees not only create good working environments, they also make significant contributions to company profits. It is clear then, that the most successful commercial firms of the twenty-first century will be those willing and able to transform themselves into “new generation organizations”. In conclusion, it seems fitting to quote Rabey (2001): “Motivation – the internalized drive towards the dominant thought of the moment. You cannot motivate anyone – you can only create a situation to which individuals will respond because they choose to”.