Motivation - SilverStone Group

SilverStone Group
risk management
Human Capital
More Than Money!
by Steve Narans
During this time of economic challenge, how can we keep our workforce motivated?
Are workers merely cogs in a wheel, a means to an end for the successful operation
of business?
Since the Industrial Revolution, employees have been the
backbone of factory production. In the past, many employers
viewed workers as interchangeable parts of the factory—and
the treatment of employees reflected that perspective. In
today’s marketplace, jobs have become more diverse and
workers are protected by a myriad of federal and state laws.
One thing, however, hasn’t changed—employers still require a
high level of productivity. Motivation is critical.
Where’s the motivation?
What really motivates people to work? What matters more
than pay, benefits, free parking or fitness clubs? Let’s examine
the findings of some well-known behavioralists who sought to
understand how motivation affects performance.
A change in perception
A profound transformation in workplace dynamics occurred
in 1924, when psychologist and sociologist Elton Mayo
conducted a series of experiments, the Hawthorne Studies,
which changed the way employers viewed employees. The
study determined that employees are not motivated solely
by money, that employee behavior is linked directly to their
attitudes about the workplace and that participation in decision
The better and more positive the
reward, the higher the motivation level;
and conversely, the lesser the reward,
the lower the motivation level of the
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making directly increases job satisfaction.1 Mayo’s study was
the catalyst for the Human Relations approach to management
and became the primary resource for leaders seeking to
increase employee productivity.
According to Abraham Maslow’s need-hierarchy theory,
people exhibit five major levels of need: physiological, safety,
social, ego and self-actualization. Maslow contended that the
lower levels, physiological and safety, had to be met before
a person could move to the higher levels of social, ego and
self-actualization. This concept, outlined in 1943, has been
the major impetus behind every business motivation-related
course currently offered.
B. F. Skinner’s 1953 theory stated that employee behavior
is tied directly to positive outcomes. He believed that the
more one experiences positive outcomes, the more often the
positive behavior will be repeated. Therefore, because actions
are tied to consequences, rewards and punishments can shape
desired behaviors. 2
In 1959, researcher Frederick Herzberg categorized motivation
into two factors: hygiene theory and motivation. Hygiene
factors (e.g., pay and job security) do not, in themselves,
produce job satisfaction; however, removing these factors can
lead to job dissatisfaction. Motivators are intrinsic factors (e.g.,
achievement and recognition), which increase motivation and
produce job satisfaction.3
Yale University professor Victor Vroom’s 1964 theory was
based on the concepts of valence, expectancy and force.
Simply stated, this theory suggests that the effort exerted by
an employee will be higher depending on the reward offered.
The better and more positive the reward, the higher the
motivation level; and conversely, the lesser the reward, the
lower the motivation level of the employee.4
These examples represent a mere handful of the many
behavioral theories regarding motivation. Over the decades,
human resource professionals have refined these concepts into
models for sound business practice, supplying employers with
guidelines for the best ways to motivate employees during
times of economic challenge.
Whew—there’s a lot to think about
I can’t remember a time when there was so much negativity in
the daily news. The future looks pretty uncertain. We’ve been
bombarded by reports about the faltering economy, business
woes, unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcies, war, gas
prices, global issues and the stock market. Bad news can affect
everyone in an organization, from management to the newest
hire. Businesses are facing the most challenging times since
World War II, and few employers have first-hand experience in
dealing with this global economic turmoil.
Leadership checklist
What can you do for employees who work hard every day
to help your company survive? How can you motivate a
workforce dealing with economic difficulties? Following are
several suggestions which may be helpful as you lead your
organization toward better times:
Communicate— Let employees know where the company
stands within its industry. Keep everyone informed about
the company’s status and be sure to let people know that
you need their effort to succeed.
Share your vision/mission— Make sure employees know
your vision/mission and the part they play in achieving it.
Answering the question, “Where do I fit in?” helps
minimize employee stress.
Trust is everything—This simple concept is often
overlooked. In Stephen Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust,
the author suggests that when a high level of trust exists
within an organization, the cost of doing business
decreases and the speed of doing business increases.
Covey further writes that organizational success is a
combination of strategy and execution; when the two
concepts are “in sync,” they produce results. Add trust to
the equation and results are multiplied even further.
Leaders who have the ability to establish, grow, extend and
restore trust, both internally and externally, can help the
organization position itself to combat any and all obstacles.
contact steve narans at 402.96 4.5580 or snarans @
Create a sense of belonging— People need assurance that
the work they perform impacts business success. Your
employees want to know they belong and that their work
makes a difference. Let them know!
Listen to the voices—Your employees are on the job
every day. They see what needs to be done and
understand the way work is accomplished. Ask questions
and listen carefully to the answers. You may be surprised
by your employees’ excellent ideas about increasing
productivity, decreasing costs or moving the organization
forward. Listen. It may be one of the most productive
actions you can take.
Let employees know what to expect—Waiting until the
end of a review period to hand out performance appraisals
just doesn’t cut it anymore. Employees need to focus on
your expectations every day. If they don’t know what’s
required of them, it’s easy to begin doing what they think
is expected of them. Gambling with performance isn’t
effective. Make it a priority to ensure that employees know
your expectations.
Coach – Coach – Coach— Most employees want to know
two things about work: what’s expected of them and how
they’re performing in relation to expectations. The critical
issue for a leader is to realize that these two requirements
are necessary every day, all year long. Leaders, in essence,
must become coaches, helping employees get on track,
stay on track—and grow. A coach must guide employees
when they make mistakes; the coach is there to help
employees recognize when things go wrong, make
Most employees want to know two things
about work: what’s expected of them and
how they’re performing in relation to
amends, if applicable, and remedy the situation. Leaders
must be empowered to teach and coach for success.
Develop people and prepare them for the future— Keep
your employees in peak condition. Don’t cut back on
training or development and keep encouraging growth in
job experience. If you help people grow during challenging
times, they will return the favor ten-fold.
Recognition— Let people know you appreciate their time,
effort, input, intelligence, support, ideas, trust, etc. They
can never hear “Thanks” too many times.
Be flexible in allowing personal time— During times of
stress, employees are grateful when an employer understands the need to take personal time. When people are
treated like human beings instead of cogs in the wheel,
they will respond with renewed effort and loyalty.
Are you motivating employees? Are they motivating you? How
has your organization responded to the demands of the current
economy? I’d appreciate hearing from you. Just call or e-mail
me and I’ll incorporate your feedback into my next SilverLink
Information on Elton Mayo from The Free Library by Farlex, “Elton Mayo: The Hawthorne Experiments,” accessed July 24, 2009 at
D efinitions from the website of the B.F. Skinner Foundation, Skinner, B.F., “A Brief Survey of Operant Behavior,” accessed July 28, 2009 at
D efinitions from ACCEL team development, “Human Relations Contributors—Frederick Herzberg: 2-Factor Hygiene and Motivation Theory,” accessed
July 28, 2009 at
“Victor H. Vroom: Motivation and Leadership Decision Making,” accessed July 28, 2009 at The Free Library by Farlex website, at
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