Posted on April 11, 2019
Motivating Your Staff to Achieve Employee Engagement
I love that story about the Harvard Business Professor who asked his class what hospitals did. “Cure the sick”, was the unanimous response. “No” the Professor retorted. “Doctors and nurses do that – the role of the hospital is to create the environment in which the best doctors and nurses want to work”.
Through the work of such people as Frederick Taylor, Elton Mayo, Abraham Maslow, Kurt Lewin, Douglas McGregor, Eric Trist and Fred Emery, we know what motivates people at work. We also know that it’s a highly dependent variable. It cannot be taught – any more than one can be taught to be happy or sad. It is a product of the environment in which they work.
Using the terminology of Fred Emery – that of “satisfiers” and “motivators” – and adapting his list of each, I have identified three classes of factors that, if all are present, will result in an engaged workforce. The three classes are set out below:
Fair and adequate pay
Clear goals and objectives
Clear strategies for achieving them
Feeling “in” on things, providing wholeness and meaning
Good working conditions
A sense of community – teams and teamwork
Knowledge, experience and opinions valued at all levels of the organisation
Good leadership at the top
Appreciation for good work
Variety and challenge – interesting work
Opportunity for learning and growing
Mutual support and respect
Headroom for decision-making
Good leadership at supervisor/manager level
Possibility for promotion
That’s a total of 23 factors to result in just one motivated employee! Moreover they all have to be present. You can’t just ignore the satisfiers and focus on the personal motivators, because if the satisfiers are not present, they negate the motivators.
So let’s start by examining the satisfiers. They are, in effect, the minimum conditions of employment that need to be satisfied and which provide the platform upon which the environmental and personal motivators can be based. And right at the top of the list is a factor – job security – that has never been less certain.
Not so long ago, job security was the norm. If one lost one’s job, it was due to poor performance. These days, job security is not the given it once was. Adverse exchange rates, cheaper labour costs in other countries, advances in IT, e-commerce and retailing, out-sourcing, toll manufacturing, mergers and acquisitions, downsizings and consolidations – these are just some of the factors that result in people losing their jobs through no fault of their own. When the spectre of redundancy hangs over your workplace, it’s hard to feel motivated to put in the extra effort.
However, if it can be argued that job security is not under the control of management, it could surely be argued that the other satisfiers most certainly are.
Turning to the list of Environmental motivators, these collectively define the culture of the organisation. If you can tick off all nine, you have achieved an aligned organisation. It is aligned in the sense that the enterprise has clear goals and objectives and the strategies in place to accomplish them but it is also aligned in the sense that everyone in the organisation knows where the organisation is now, everyone knows the goals and the strategies to achieve them and everyone knows his or her role in their attainment.
Because their knowledge, experience and opinion is both sought and valued, employees are encouraged to speak their minds, to innovate and to support others’ innovation, to question whether there is a better way. Constructive conflict is welcomed. These employees are entrusted with the big picture and because they feel “in” on things, it gives their role, however humble, wholeness and meaning.
For example, an employee might be on the switchboard; be in customer service or work as a clerk in accounts receivable. Nevertheless, he or she knows the big picture and understands the impact of his or her actions on customer or supplier relationships.
Now if you can put a tick against all the Satisfiers and the Environmental Motivators, you will have created an environment in which the best people want to work. The thing to note about the Personal Motivators is that not all employees want these things to the same degree. I have yet to meet anyone who does not welcome “appreciation for good work” providing the praise is sincere. I am less certain whether such appreciation has to be accompanied by rewards of one form or another.
My feeling is that rewards are not a prerequisite for employee engagement. I personally would much prefer an employee to be motivated intrinsically rather than by the prospect of an extrinsic reward. Similarly everyone welcomes “mutual support and respect”, good leadership and communication at a personal level.
What constitutes good leadership and communication? Any manager or supervisor, who practices MBWA (Management By Wandering Around), is always wanting your feedback on “If only’s” and always has time to expand on the big picture, gets my vote.
In contrast, “variety and challenge”, “opportunities for learning and growing”, “headroom for decision-making” and “possibilities for promotion” need to be tailored to the individual. Generally speaking, Generation Y has a greater need for these than Gen X and certainly your high performers will have an expanding need for such stimulants to keep them motivated. If you don’t provide them, they will find an employer who does.
But please don’t fall into the trap of ignoring those employees who are content to remain in their present position who are motivated primarily by their intrinsic need to do a good job. What great employees to have around! Their role tenure means that they are repositories of experience and knowledge that is yours to draw upon. They still need “variety and challenge’, “opportunities for learning and growing” and “headroom for decision-making”. But they don’t need them to the same degree. As for the possibility of promotion? This is not a priority. These employees would much prefer incremental expansion to their current role.
Before leaving this topic, there is one other point to make. I observe that many managers – particularly those in executive positions – see the challenge of employee engagement as a campaign that is waged at operative and lower management levels. With middle and senior management, “engagement” with their employer is expected of them. Why? Because with these managers, the Satisfiers have been met by their employer and executive management’s attitude is: “We pay them well, they’ve got a nice company car, we pay their private health benefits, extra contributions towards their super, membership of a health club – what more do they need to motivate them?” The answer is – look in the second and third columns. The Regional Manager is no different from the most junior sales rep.
See more on the Employee Engagement Software for Continuous Improvement article.