motivation to work in a company
Business literature is packed with advice about worker motivationbut sometimes managers are the problem, not the inspiration. Here are seven practices to fire up the troops. From Harvard Management Update.
by David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind, and Michael Irwin Meltzer
Most companies have it all wrong. They don't have to motivate their employees. They have to stop demotivating them.
The great majority of employees are quite enthusiastic when they start a new job. But in about 85 percent of companies, our research finds, employees' morale sharply declines after their first six monthsand continues to deteriorate for years afterward. That finding is based on surveys of about 1.2 million employees at 52 primarily Fortune 1000 companies from 2001 through 2004, conducted by Sirota Survey Intelligence (Purchase, New York).
The fault lies squarely at the feet of managementboth the policies and procedures companies employ in managing their workforces and in the relationships that individual managers establish with their direct reports.
Our research shows how individual managers' behaviors and styles are contributing to the problem (see sidebar)and what they can do to turn this around.
Three key goals of people at work
To maintain the enthusiasm employees bring to their jobs initially, management must understand the three sets of goals that the great majority of workers seek from their workand then satisfy those goals:
- Equity: To be respected and to be treated fairly in areas such as pay, benefits, and job security.
- Achievement: To be proud of one's job, accomplishments, and employer.
- Camaraderie: To have good, productive relationships with fellow employees.
To maintain an enthusiastic workforce, management must meet all three goals. Indeed, employees who work for companies where just one of these factors is missing are three times less enthusiastic than workers at companies where all elements are present.
One goal cannot be substituted for another. Improved recognition cannot replace better pay, money cannot substitute for taking pride in a job well done, and pride alone will not pay the mortgage.
What individual managers can do
Satisfying the three goals depends both on organizational policies and on the everyday practices of individual managers. If the company has a solid approach to talent management, a bad manager can undermine it in his unit. On the flip side, smart and empathetic managers can overcome a great deal of corporate mismanagement while creating enthusiasm and commitment within their units. While individual managers can't control all leadership decisions, they can still have a profound influence on employee motivation.
The most important thing is to provide employees with a sense of security, one in which they do not fear that their jobs will be in jeopardy if their performance is not perfect and one in which layoffs are considered an extreme last resort, not just another option for dealing with hard times.
But security is just the beginning. When handled properly, each of the following eight practices will play a key role in supporting your employees' goals for achievement, equity, and camaraderie, and will enable them to retain the enthusiasm they brought to their roles in the first place.
1. Instill an inspiring purpose. A critical condition for employee enthusiasm is a clear, credible, and inspiring organizational purpose: in effect, a "reason for being" that translates for workers into a "reason for being there" that goes above and beyond money.
Every manager should be able to expressly state a strong purpose for his unit. What follows is one purpose statement we especially admire. It was developed by a three-person benefits group in a midsize firm.Benefits are about people. It's not whether you have the forms filled in or whether the checks are written. It's whether the people are cared for when they're sick, helped when they're in trouble.
This statement is particularly impressive because it was composed in a small company devoid of high-powered executive attention and professional wordsmiths. It was created in the type of department normally known for its fixation on bureaucratic rules and procedures. It is a statement truly from the heart, with the focus in the right place: on the endspeoplerather than the meanscompleting forms.
To maintain an enthusiastic workforce, management must meet all three goals.
Stating a mission is a powerful tool. But equally important is the manager's ability to explain and communicate to subordinates the reason behind the mission. Can the manager of stockroom workers do better than telling her staff that their mission is to keep the room stocked? Can she communicate the importance of the job, the people who are relying on the stockroom being properly maintained, both inside and outside the company? The importance for even goods that might be considered prosaic to be where they need to be when they need to be there? That manager will go a long way toward providing a sense of purpose.
2. Provide recognition. Managers should be certain that all employee contributions, both large and small, are recognized. The motto of many managers seems to be, "Why would I need to thank someone for doing something he's paid to do?" Workers repeatedly tell us, and with great feeling, how much they appreciate a compliment. They also report how distressed they are when managers don't take the time to thank them for a job well done yet are quick to criticize them for making mistakes.
Receiving recognition for achievements is one of the most fundamental human needs. Rather than making employees complacent, recognition reinforces their accomplishments, helping ensure there will be more of them.
A pat on the back, simply saying "good going, " a dinner for two, a note about their good work to senior executives, some schedule flexibility, a paid day off, or even a flower on a desk with a thank-you note are a few of the hundreds of ways managers can show their appreciation for good work. It works wonders if this is sincere, sensitively done, and undergirded by fair and competitive payand not considered a substitute for it.
3. Be an expediter for your employees. Incorporating a command-and-control style is a sure-fire path to demotivation. Instead, redefine your primary role as serving as your employees' expediter: It is your job to facilitate getting their jobs done. Your reports are, in this sense, your "customers." Your role as an expediter involves a range of activities, including serving as a linchpin to other business units and managerial levels to represent their best interests and ensure your people get what they need to succeed.