Employee Motivation

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Employee Motivation is becoming ever more important in the workplace as time goes on, and everyone agrees that a motivated workforce is far more likely to be a successful workforce. The happier and more professional an employee is, the better the results they will deliver for you. Of course, every employer wants to make sure that they have a workforce who will do their best, but this does not simply mean making the job easy for their employees. In fact, part of the problem of motivation is that where the job is too easy, employees become complacent.

There is therefore a challenge for all employers and management in delivering the right balance between a confident, motivated workforce and a workforce which is driven to attain goals. It can be described as a mix between the pleasure of a comfortable working environment and the fear of failure, although in honesty it is more complicated than that equation suggests. Regardless of how it is characterised, it is important to get the right balance in order to ensure that you have a motivated workforce. This manual is designed to show participants the way to get the best out of a confident, motivated set of employees, and to show them how to motivate that group.

The importance of psychology in achieving and maintaining Employee Motivation is essential. A message can be repeated over and over to a group of employees but unless they believe it and believe in it, the words are empty. The following are some of the key psychological theories which aid employers in their end goal of producing a motivated workforce.

Motivation is not all about philosophical needs, of course. A lot of people work better when they have the concrete facts in front of them – something to work towards, something to avoid. Different things motivate different people, and in any given team or workforce there will be a mix of these people. As Herzberg’s Theory suggests, what will motivate each individual will be a mix of satisfaction and non-dissatisfaction. This is similar to the old theory of the “carrot and whip” – based on the hypothesis of riding a horse and using the carrot to encourage it to speed up, and the whip to prevent it from slowing down too much. Then there is also the idea of the plant – seeing a worker as a “plant” who, given the right mix of the already-discussed factors, will flower beautifully. The carrot, the whip, and the plant are united into the heading of “Object-Oriented Theory”.

The concept of reinforcement theory is an old idea, which has been used in many different settings for many different purposes. If you have a pet dog, the chances are that you have used reinforcement theory in training it to behave the right way – a treat for sitting, rolling over and walking when you ask it to, and a punishment for climbing on the furniture or going to the toilet in the house. It is not, however, limited to dogs, although the way it is applied changes depending on whom the theory is being practiced on. For humans, something as crude as a piece of candy to reward a good deed will not be as effective, but the concept of rewarding good practice and punishing bad holds firm. Reinforcement theory has been established as successful and coherent, and it is a valid method of ensuring the best performance.

While there are a number of theories which focus on needs as a driver of motivation, Victor Vroom’s Theory of Expectancy rather thrives on the outcomes. To clarify, while Herzberg and Maslow make the case for motivation being something that is dependent on need, Vroom suggests that the best motivation is to concentrate on the result of work as being the ultimate goal. He splits the process down into three sections – effort (for which motivation is essential), performance, and outcome. The theory is that if the employee is sufficiently motivated to achieve the results, their performance will be better as a result, and the outcome will to some extent take care of itself as a result of improved performance – which will itself be a result of greater effort.

In any organization, there needs to be a mix of personality types. The importance of personality types is decried by some as a kind of fad science, but it is difficult to run an office or any other workplace when everyone has the same “soft skills”. The reason for this is perhaps best explained by the old saying “too many cooks spoil the broth”. Where everyone has the same personality type and a problem arises, there is likely to be conflict as everyone tries to take the same role in solving it. The different personality types are not explicitly defined, and therefore there is no hard-and-fast list, but there is a set of soft skills which all workplaces require, and these are best met by different types of people.

It is universally accepted that a business will get nowhere without having targets and ambitions to which to aspire. There is a phrase often used which describes people as “goal-oriented”. The meaning of this phrase is that the individual seeks to achieve goals and defines their success by the reaching of these goals. If they fail to meet it, they consider that they have failed overall, no matter the quality of the work they have done to get there, or any obstacles overcome. Though this seems a little negative given the numerous ways in which a person can fail to reach their goals, it does not mean that having goals and aiming for them is not a valuable way to work.

Motivating yourself and others is something that takes no small amount of effort and can sometimes seem like a fruitless endeavor, as motivation initiatives do not always take hold immediately (or at all, in some cases). It is also worth mentioning that, although there are many resources on the Internet for managers and team leaders seeking to motivate their employees, not all of these will work in a specific situation. It is well worth reading the best books and the best sites in order to promote ideas, but the best motivational strategy will always take some account of the exact situation where it is used, so it is worth honing yours somewhat.

The importance of motivation in any workplace is clear to see. Without motivated employees, any manager or team leader will find it a lot harder to get results out of their team. One can produce a fairly reasonable standard of work without having great motivation, but to exceed expectations and achieve great results it is essential to have superb motivation. Without something to concentrate on as the reward, the reason you do the job and the reason you want to do the job, it is difficult to produce quality results, because an absence of enthusiasm will always result in flaws.

Motivation in a job is linked intrinsically to morale. As interesting and challenging as work may be, if there is a problem with morale then it can very quickly run through the business and lead to underperformance. There are many reasons why morale may be low, and they range from the banal to the very serious. It is only by knowing the nature of the problem causing low morale that morale can be restored and the performance of the business resurrected to a high level. Low morale can affect an individual, or it may go wider than that. It can end up affecting an entire team, department, or company. Depending on what causes it each situation may require a different solution.

Maintaining personal motivation is something essential as an important member of a company, particularly in the case where you are responsible for the motivation of others. As a team leader or manager you will be looked to for reassurance and guidance in a job, and if you give the impression that you are merely going through the motions, your lack of motivation can become contagious. Even if you are responsible solely for yourself, personal motivation remains vitally important. Motivation is what keeps us from giving up and refusing to get out of bed in the morning. Any way we can improve on our level of personal motivation is valuable.

We have more information about Employee Motivation available in our Resource Centre

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