Employee Motivation

When I started working at my current employer 10 years ago, I was excited, scared, optimistic, and cautious all at once. As the days went on, I was able to see who the committed employees were, and which employees were simply there to earn their paycheck and nothing more. It can be difficult to remove poor employees, and I’ve seen my supervisor

work very hard sometimes to eliminate an employee that simply didn’t live up to the company’s expectations. However, there was an instance that was very cut-and-dry for him. A couple employees were caught having “sexual relations” during working hours. Obviously he was able to terminate their employment without contest. If only all employment termination decisions could be that easy. The real challenges in management is motivating talented employees without offending them, yet limiting the amount of investment necessary from the company. Because at the end of the day, we can all find a way to eliminate a poor employee, but keeping a good employee can prove to be more difficult.

The biggest offense I see from employees is non-productive time. Whether they’re shopping on the internet, making personal calls on the company phone, chatting on their personal cell phone, or taking extra smoke breaks, these employees in particular need to be challenged. Obviously they either do not have enough to do to fill their work day or their day to day responsibilities are not challenging enough and they’re bored. In either case, it is their manager’s responsibility to find that challenge for them. Remember, this is an employee that you do not wish to terminate. The best thing to do is assign said employee a project that will certainly help the company, but is outside the box of what this employee is used to doing everyday. This project will answer your question one of two ways. Either the employee is driven and takes this challenge by the horns, in which case you will find a great candidate for future projects, or this employee will flounder, and make continuous excuses as to why they cannot work on this project. If the answer is the later, then as manager, the best way to eliminate this employee’s non-productive time is to find more “busy” work to fill their day. If you find that you simply do not have enough “busy” work for this employee, then possibly sharing this employee’s time with another department manager may be the answer.

Another challenging employee for managers is the employee that is unhappy with their pay rate. Now, to be honest, I have yet to meet a person that truly thinks they are paid too much. We all want a bigger pay check. Some people do deserve a larger pay rate, some people are making a justifiable rate, and some people simply do not deserve a pay hike. For the person that simply does deserve a higher pay rate, it is the manager’s responsibility to find that money for them. What we have to do as manager, is decide; “Will it cost me more to lose this employee to a higher paying job, or can I make more money by keeping the employee and compensating them for their efforts”? One difficult option to reward this employee is eliminating a lesser employee and then passing those responsibilities and a portion of the pay to the preferred employee. This option can actually “kill two birds with one stone”; you eliminate an employee that isn’t carrying their weight and reward the stellar employee. For the employee that is already making a sufficient pay rate, but insists they deserve more; we, as managers may have to get a little creative in conveying to this employee that ultimately they are not going to get a raise. Such creative techniques can range from: telling the employee that the company is in a pay freeze; point out examples where the employee has not improved their performance from their last pay raise; tell the employee that the company’s business has slowed and there just simply is not room for any raises at this time. This is a challenge for a manager. It’s important to be as honest as possible with this employee, but we like this employee and we cannot risk insulting them with the blunt truth which is: “You don’t deserve more that you’re currently making”.

The greatest motivator, in my opinion, is trust between employee and their supervisor. When a supervisor is able to gain an employee’s trust, said employee is much more likely to give an extra effort in the best interest of the company. Typically, a bitter employee has been tainted by a past experience of poor management. The best thing a good manager can do is be empathetic to this employee’s experiences, yet maintain a stance that ultimately you, as manager, will always do what’s in the best interest of the company. The greatest example I can provide from my own personal experience comes from my current supervisor. Mr. Smith has always been very complimentary of my work habits. My reviews have always been positive, and he has never heard anything negative regarding my interaction with my coworkers. He has always appreciated everything I do for the company, but he has also supported my interests outside the company, such as pursuing my Bachelor’s degree. In fact he was instrumental in persuading the company to provide me with financial assistance. In doing this, he realizes that I’m not increasing my education to stay in the same position in which I’m currently working. He has told me that he encourages all of his employees to take advantage of any opportunity that can make their life better. In the same discussion, he has been honest in admitting that he would love to have me stay in the position that I’m in, because I do it very well. These statements have built a trust in our relationship that really leads me to believe that he cares about me, thus leading me to continue to give my absolute best effort everyday I go to work. Ultimately, once I receive my degree, he knows I intend of leaving my current position. The fact that Mr. Smith has built this trust, representing the company, may lead to me giving my current employer the greatest opportunity to have my services. I venture to say that this relationship is even more important that the higher pay rate another employer may offer. Now, wouldn’t you agree that Mr. Smith has a motivated employee?

Motivating employees is a challenging part of management. It’s not easy, and often goes without reward. If the job was easy, we’d probably have machines doing it. But because every situation is different, we as managers must be sensitive to every situation and ultimately decide for ourselves which decision is best for the company. I have only laid out basic thoughts to employee motivation and obviously not every thought will solve your challenges. It’s important to always remember that an employee either makes the company money, or costs the company money. The employee that makes the company money is the one that deserves the manager’s attention.