Employee Motivation

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It has been wisely observed that "motives are habits in the making". This means that today's motivation is the seed and substance of tomorrow's habits-if only because so many habits are created through a single, initial bit of motivated behavior. The idea and goal of "keeping employees motivated" sounds smart. But it also sounds redundant to some extent: If an employee is in fact doing his job, is he not in fact motivated? The reasonable reply is that "there is doing the job; but then there is doing the job very well and enjoyably". Being motivated to do the job does not mean being motivated to do it well, or even passably.

That's why employers unable to motivate their employees to do more than simply stay need to learn something about how to accomplish that.

On the employee side, motivation is a very important aspect of employee engagement, as inspiration is the key to professional or any job fulfillment. One complication, however, is the possibility of double-edged motivation, for example, employee motivation that is great for the company's bottom line, but bad in some other respect, e.g., hostile relations with colleagues in virtue of a dog-eat-dog approach to high-powered sales.

Alternatively, an employee's motivation might be great for himself or herself, e.g., to do something environmentally important and responsible, but not so great for the strip-mining company's image or morale. Ideally, of course, an employee's motivation will be harmoniously aligned with both his own goals and values and those of the company.

Accordingly, a key challenge in motivational management is to create incentives and goals that are not only acceptable to both employer and employee, but reinforcing and satisfying to both.

These following steps can potentially motivate your employees:

* Use reward more than punishment. Empirical studies and human nature seem to prove it is more effective. (However, at least one report suggests this technique may be more effective with children than with young adults, because, it is argued, processing reward-based information is simpler for children than processing punishment is. That in turn is because of the greater uncertainties associated with getting something wrong, e.g., the generally greater number of ways one can get something wrong.)

* Avoid the double-whammy of belittling and reduplicating an employee's efforts (by trashing their work and demanding it be redone).

* Be just. This means no discrimination (in the worst sense of the word). It also means being consistent and consistently fair in apportioning tasks, praise, compensation, criticism, etc.

* Encourage staff to be responsive to problems and challenges even when they should not be held responsible for their creation.

* Avoid assigning responsibility without authority. It's a bad combination that will put employees in a bind and frustrate, if not anger, them.

* Be friendly, but firm (as well as fair). By being respectful and friendly, but not a pushover, an employer can set limits that likewise will be respected.

* Never yell at employees. A climate of anger, fear, hostility and resentment is highly demotivating.

* Invite a disciplined employee to serve as a "gone straight" mentor to other workers. This will facilitate the dissemination of the need for the sanctions without humiliating the disciplined worker or creating anxieties as to what counts as "crime and punishment".
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