There is no simple magic formula
A long time ago while employed by well-known soap manufacturer, my boss told me I had to develop a two day programme for managers on motivation. I protested that it was impossible but he was adamant – “you will design a course on motivation or else”!
Needless to say, I was not very happy about the assignment which got me to thinking. Motivation is like happiness. There are simply no quick fixes! You can be as happy as can be one moment and then something can happen which will kill that happiness. By the same token, you can feel ‘down in the dumps’ and something can happen to lift your mood in an instant.
Nobody is happy, or unhappy for that matter, all the time. Things happen which trigger mood changes. However, on average, some people are definitely happier than others. Some people tend to look on the bright side while others go through life continually criticising and complaining.
If things are not in alignment in your life, for example, if you are in debt, you will probably experience more unhappiness than you do happiness. But even if you are a balanced individual and you have everything going for you, things can happen which are beyond your control. As the saying goes, in order to experience happiness, you must know sadness. There is no one answer to achieving happiness. There are a variety of answers. So too with motivation.
When I train this subject, I normally ask the class to think of occasions when they felt motivated and occasions when they felt demotivated. Interestingly the answers correspond quite well with Herzberg’s Motivation Hygiene theory.
People tend to feel motivated when they are given responsibility, when they are given challenges, when they achieve things they consider important and when they are given recognition. They tend to feel demotivated when they are treated badly, when they feel they are underpaid or are not treated equitably in comparison to others.
High salaries and excellent conditions of employment do not necessarily lead to motivated employees. Money can’t buy you happiness and it has severe limitations when it comes to motivation too!
Dr Arnold Mol in his excellent book, Creating Winners in the Workplace, makes the distinction between movement and motivation:
“Movement takes place when subordinates do a job only for the sake of getting some benefit, or when they carry out a task only to avoid some unpleasant sequence. This ‘movement’ can take place from behind or from the front. When a manager, for example, threatens his subordinates with some type of punishment if they don’t shape up, he is moving them from behind.
On the other hand, when a manager dangles some type of ‘carrot’ in front of his staff to induce them to perform better, he is moving them from the front. Neither of these approaches, however, can motivate subordinates to improve their performance-it can only move them.”
Essentially, what he suggests is that people can be ‘moved’ by rewards and the threat of punishment. For example, he suggests you tell a group of labourers that they can go home early when they finish a task. You will be surprised at how hard they work, but he says you haven’t motivated them, you have only moved them. People are only truly motivated when they love and have a sense of pride in their work.
Work with the staff of the Highway Hospice and you will soon understand what Dr. Mol is talking about. You simply could not find another more caring, dedicated and motivated group of employees. They love what they do and it shows, yet they do not earn anywhere near the salaries of people working for big corporates!
So how does one get people to love and have a sense of pride in their work? Like achieving happiness in life, there is no single answer. You have to change attitudes at all levels of the organisation and that cannot be done overnight. It requires a multi-tiered and comprehensive approach to performance management.
That must of necessity start at the top of the organisation and filter all the way through to the bottom! It also cannot be a ‘once off’ project to be delegated to an individual or team. It must be an on-going sustained process driven by top management.
Some of the key areas that need to be addressed are as follows.
Strategy – Business focus
Attitudes to work need to be examined against the mission, values and goals of the organisation. Values need to be agreed by all and lived, which is more difficult than it might at first appear. Often managers who produce the numbers (results) don’t live the values. These managers are poison to an organisation but because they produce results, top management often overlooks their failures. Employees don’t!
Jobs need to be properly aligned to the goals of the organisation and care must be taken to identify the right key performance areas and indicators. Work must add value and unnecessary tasks should be eliminated – that includes managers duplicating work that should have been delegated because they don’t trust their staff! This is a whole subject on its own.
Finding the right people
Jack Welch said “Find the right job and you will never work another day in your life.” How true. Conversely, if a person is in the wrong job, you might be able to move them by financial rewards (or threats) but they will not love their work and will not be truly motivated. Therefore a critical task is to find people who love what they do and who will live the organisation’s values.
Policies and procedures
In a small business, you can get away with not having formal policies and procedures, but as a business grows, so do problems related to consistency. Inconsistency is a major demotivator which can give rise to serious IR problems. It is therefore a critical requirement for creating a working environment in which people can feel motivated.
Some people are natural leaders but most of us have to learn it – either through experience which can be very expensive, both financially and emotionally, or through training and coaching. All too often top managers receive training but this does not filter down to the lower levels of management and supervision. Leadership in the modern business world is constantly changing and leaders need to be able to learn from research and the experiences of others.
Training and development
Nowadays if you are not constantly learning and upgrading your skills, you are actually becoming redundant! Businesses today which neglect the training of their employees do so at their peril. Globally there is a growing skills shortage which is exacerbated in South Africa by inadequate education.
Remuneration and rewards
While most academics seem to agree that money is not a motivator, they all agree that it can be a real demotivator. People who believe they are being exploited or treated unequally are likely to be very demotivated and possibly even rebellious. It is therefore very important to ensure that salaries and conditions of employment are fair and are competitive in the market place.
A supervisor once told me. “We do something right and nobody says a thing, but do something wrong and you never hear the end of it!” Giving an employee recognition for work well done costs little but the benefits are enormous. It shows the employee that his or her good work has been noticed and it has been appreciated. It helps the employee to build confidence and self-esteem and it creates a sense of pride in achievement.
As one of our B&A agents suggests, start each day with a mission to “catch somebody doing something right!”
Bruniquel & Associates (Pty) Ltd
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There is no simple magic formula