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How to Motivate Employees

Layoffs, retrenchment, downsizing, pink slips, termination orders are things that all kinds of companies are resorting to in order to meet the rising costs of raw material and to keep the company afloat. They have to curb their expenditure and keep a tight reign over where, how, why, when and for what reason the money is flowing.

Employee Motivation

While this is one side of the picture, the human resources department of any company will tell you that the most pressing problem they are facing is retaining top quality talent within the company. Salary packages are constantly being raised to match the industry standards and inflation levels, perks and benefits are being offered to maintain the employee’s standard of living, incentives are rolled out to motivate the employees, they are sent for expensive training programmers and assignments abroad so that they can hone their skills and gain some exposure ….and yet the employee will hand in his resignation because he was offered something that he was looking for in another organization.

Employee motivation is a concept that is being studied and analyzed like a subject now. Managers need to learn the art and craft of ‘how to motivate employees.’

Maslow’s motivational theory differentiates needs into two kinds:

Deficiency needs:

Relate to physiological and safety needs. They satisfy the most basic needs like food, shelter and clothing, a safe work environment for employees etc.

Growth needs:

Relate to the psychological needs for respect and self-esteem, self-actualization needs etc.

How to motivate employees using Maslow’s theory:

According to Maslow, only if the deficiency needs are fully satisfied will employees even think of their growth needs.

So the first thing about employee motivation that managers need to ensure is that their primary/deficiency needs are fully satisfied. Paying all the employees a salary that matches their skill and knowledge and creating a safe and comfortable environment are two basic needs that all employees will first look for. If employees do not get the job security that they are looking for and the company is downsizing its work force, employees may work harder to retain their positions and end up burning out or they may get frustrated and start looking out for other jobs. Both are detrimental to the company because there is an air of insecurity in the company.

The second most crucial stage in how to motivate employees is to ensure that the right person is doing the right job i.e. all his growth needs are met. A proper atmosphere needs to be created for all the employees where they can put all their inherent talent and skills to full use. If a highly skilled person with a lot of expertise in placed at a junior level even after several years of experience, he is bound to get frustrated very quickly. On the other hand if fresher from university is placed in a highly challenging atmosphere, he may be incapable of dealing with the stress levels involved.

Some practical employee motivation techniques based on Maslow’s theory:

John Stacey Adams’ Equity theory

How to motivate employees using the John Stacey Adams’ Equity theory:

According to this theory Employee motivation is not related to money alone.

Employees are looking for fair and non-partial treatment based on certain basic parameters.
For example: giving one employee a promotion can be perceived as favoritism or nepotism by other employees thus creating a negative and demotivating atmosphere in the workplace.

The equity theory focuses on the inputs of the employees. They look at the quality and the quantity of the work done. These qualities are often intangible but add a lot of value to the quality of work delivered. Time clocked in, commitment, sacrifice, flexibility, enthusiasm, trust, determination to achieve results despite odds and challenges faced are some internal qualities of a few employees. They don’t need external employee motivation techniques because all their growth needs are being met.

The equity theory also looks at the outputs that are delivered by the employees. Depending on whether the employee has done his job well and shares good interpersonal and cordial relationships with his colleagues, the consequences are bound to be good or bad. The output is directly related to the input and is rewarded by additional job security benefits, public display of gratitude, recognition, praise and reward etc.

This is one of the best employee motivation techniques where the inputs and the results are visible to all the other employees. They can see the difference in the quality of their inputs and understand the implications of under-performance.

Such transparency and openness leads to mutual praise and respect. Instead of wondering about how to motivate employees, managers focus on getting the statistics of the top performers out in the open so that it can be implemented by others if they want to reach a similar level in the organization.

Employee motivation takes place of its own accord because all the employees can compare and contrast their performance with other colleagues or top performers. They realize that there is some gap in their output and input and focus on honing their skills and knowledge. This is one of the best techniques of employee motivation because it works at an internal level.

Employee motivation techniques suggested by Herzberg:

This theory endorses the most basic growth need of employees. They do not like to be controlled by others and appreciate the freedom given by their employers. Many organizations are using this employee motivation technique and are experiencing positive outcomes.

Employees are made accountable for results that are delivered or not delivered. This instills a sense of responsibility within them and they appreciate it when they are given credit for their performance. They derive a sense of personal achievement and are motivated to perform better.

Employees are given total personal responsibility for their work and this gives them a feeling of independence. They can work on it in their own way within the given time frame. This allows them to focus on the quality of their work which gives them a high sense of job satisfaction.

Dividing the work amongst the team members so that each team member is in charge of one module/aspect/unit of the task. This fosters a sense of fairness as the work load is evenly divided, all the employees can work in a harmonious atmosphere and great rapport is shared among team members. They are personally accountable for their module of work so they willingly work and coordinate with other team members.

Rewarding top performers with additional responsibility which will meet their growth needs. They are motivated because they are learning something new.

Create reports on employee performance and discuss it with the employees in private. Employees appreciate a private discussion to know where they are performing well and where they need to improve. Discussing things at the team level will solve the problems quickly and effectively. This is an excellent employee motivation technique because the supervisors or superiors have not been brought into the picture. This develops trust and generates positive results in the long run.

Allowing them to enhance their job skills by using the job rotation technique is another good way of finding out the inherent expertise of the employee. Not only do they learn diverse skills, they find out where they excel and this has a positive impact on the quality of work delivered.
After the employers identify their areas of expertise, they need to ensure that they are given tasks suited to their skills. This makes them happier and happy employees motivate others to find their areas of expertise.

How to motivate employees using the Vroom’s expectancy motivation theory:

This theory links employee motivation to personality traits, skills, knowledge, experience and ability.

Vroom believes that employees need to understand the basic fact that an increased effort will result in a better reward. Employees should know that the harder they work the better their chances of rising up the ladder.

Employers have a strong role to play here and a basic responsibility to shoulder. They need to ensure that all the right resources are available at the right time. They need to match the skill set of the employee with the job requirements first and then support the employee as and when he asks for support.

Employers should clearly define the reward that is waiting for them if the job is completed successfully. Vague and unclear promises will serve as demotivating factors because the employee will feel he has been deprived of what is rightly his due.

Employers should never break the promises that they make to their employees. A break in trust amongst the team members will result in insecurity because no one knows whom to trust or believe in anymore.

The results and the outcomes along with the processes and inputs of the different employees need to be shared with others or put up for others to see. When all the employees get to see, know and understand the facts they experience a sense of fair play. The entire team may also be credited for some excellent performances. This is a winning strategy for employee motivation.

The last step is that employers should ensure that the reward that is given is something that the employees value or look forward to. Additional leave or a reduced work load may not be things they are looking forward to. Yes, they might value a bonus or a paid holiday etc. So employers need to find out what kind of reward will make the employees happy.

There are various other theories that are put forward by eminent theorists. While each theory has its own unique aspects, most of the factors tend to overlap with these four theories.

Managers who deal with a huge work force need to understand that the carrot and stick method no longer works. People are entering the job market after spending a good many years pursuing higher education in top institutes. They have a lot of awareness and knowledge about their domain. Add to it the factor that the world has now become a global village, people willingly quit and take up better paying jobs in other companies without any hesitation. They are constantly looking for their growth needs to be met.

Organizations are quickly getting out of the hierarchical models and believe in open communication at all times. There is no such concept of a senior or a junior – everyone just plays a different role and calls one another by their first names.

Work life balance and a professional approach are things that employees constantly look for. Human resource managers need to understand that they are dealing with unique human beings. They need to understand that everyone’s needs vary with time. Patience, transparency and a genuine understanding of the employees’ problems will prevent people from leaving the organization.

Organizations spend huge amounts of money on imparting training to their employees. When experienced and talented employees leave the organization, the organization has to spend bigger amounts on finding the right person and training them for the role. The entire team or the project is likely to suffer till they find a new recruit.

Employee motivation techniques are being studied very seriously and are implemented very carefully in reputed organizations. The values and the skills that the employees bring to the organization should match the needs that they are looking for.

Studying the basic dynamics of any reputed workplace will prove that all the theories mentioned above need to be implemented in various ways at different times. The success of any organization depends on various factors and all of them need to be viewed holistically.

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