What makes people work harder? The best answer is, no one really knows, but
there are many theories, each of which has some relevance in some situations.
As a supervisor you need to find what motivates people in your workplace. There
is no silver bullet for motivation and it should be considered an art, not a
Supervisors want to motivate employees because it gets more work
from them with less effort on the part of an organization. Workers are motivated
when they do something because they want to rather than have to or are
forced to. Motivated workers do more with less supervision and contribute more
to the workplace. Everyone realizes that motivation in a workforce is a good
thing. The question is how to get it. To learn how to get it we must first look
at what it is.
Two Broad Philosophies of Motivation
There are two broad philosophies of motivation. We will call them the rational
and behavioral philosophies. The difference between the two
is the base belief in human nature. The rational view assumes that a person
is able to make accurate assessments of his or her surroundings, recognize goals
and work towards achieving those goals. The behavioral philosophy assumes that
all behavior is learned and that people are not always rational or able to recognize
goals and they learn behavior from the group they are in. Both have some merits
and some shortcomings. Lets look at them separately
Rational Motivation assumes workers can recognize rewards and will behave
so as to get those rewards. In this view behavior on behalf of the employee
gets the reward. First the behavior happens and then the reward occurs. This
is a very important sequence; Behavior then reward. It assumes a rational
being that can recognize and will work for rewards. The most important work
in this area was done by a man named Maslow. Maslow said that people are motivated
by different things at different times in their careers. As they get enough
of something they will not be as motivated by more of the same thing. If we
believe Maslow then we can predict that a young worker with a family to support
will be motivated by more money and chances at advancement. Older workers, who
theoretically have enough money, will be more motivated by experiences, challenges
and job satisfaction. In actual application we need to recognize that different
stages of life, wealth and responsibility mean different motivators. We can
offer younger workers opportunity for advancement and money while older workers
will be influenced by job satisfaction and challenges.
Behavioral Motivation assumes that workers behavior is very flexible
and getting a reward for doing something creates this behavior. If a person
gets a reward for a behavior they are likely to repeat that behavior. In behavioral
motivation the rewards are more often social than tangible. The sequence here
is reward first and then behavior. It is very important to recognize
this sequence because it says that workplace behavior is social and not rational.
In actual practice we would motivate workers by praising them and giving them
group recognition for behavior we like. For example; you might have a pizza
and beer night to honor your most productive framer or you could present an
award to your foreperson with the best safety record. In each case the behavior
generates the reward. To make behavioral motivation most effective the employer
must work towards making the group a unique social system. In this way the recognition
and praise rewards will be more highly valued by the individual. Softball teams,
ice cream Fridays and other such activities make a stronger social system.
You can see that each of the base philosophies has some relevance,
but also some shortcomings. Studies of the workplace have shown that motivation
may be a combination of both in varying amounts. One study compared money, working
conditions (surroundings) and the quality of supervision with productivity.
The study found across a broad spectrum of employees that more money only motivated
(got more productivity) up to a certain point. After money came working conditions
and supervisory quality which also had a point of diminishing returns as they
were increased. The result was a conclusion that money, working conditions and
supervision could only increase productivity to a certain point and then more
money, better working conditions and better supervision produced proportionately
less and less gain. In this situation group behavior and behavioral motivation
programs was the only way to increase productivity through motivation once money,
conditions and supervision had reached satisfaction levels.
A Motivation Program Outline
- Review salary and benefit levels. Are they adequate? Without adequate
compensation levels motivation will be difficult
- How are working conditions? Adequate or better? Poor working conditions
are one of the biggest De-motivators
- Review hiring policies Are employees hired because they are qualified
AND can get along well with others? Inexperienced employers often hire
based upon only quantifiable job qualifications, ignoring the ability to work
as part of a group which is probably the most important job qualifiaction
- Talk to each person who works for you about their career goals. The
best source of information on what motivates an employee is the employee.
- Do an analysis of each person who works for you. What would motivate
them? Money, opportunity, recognition? Recognize this in their work assignments
and rewards to the extent possible. Different people are motivated by
different needs and desires. Try to individualize motivation around individuals.
- Hold work group events. Behavorial motivation is effective because
it binds people to a group and the group's goals and values. Doing things
together makes a workplace a social group and easier to motivate.
- Discuss group goals with your workgroup.Your group needs goals in
order to form a little society that controls member behavior. Talk to your
group about what "we" (the entire group) are doing, and will be
doing, and how it is supposed to turn out.
- Create a recognition program where workers who are productive are periodically
recognized by the workgroup. It is behavorial motivation at its best when
you provide a group recognition reward (remember a reward can be some thing
as small as a "thankyou") in front of the workgroup.
- ALWAYS tell people when they have done a good job.The easiest, cheaapest
and most effective motivational tool you have is remembering to tell people
when they have done well. If you do nothing else, do this!
- Most importantly see what works and see what does not work. Try to build
upon successes and learn from failures. Keep in mind that motivation is
an art and not a science. As such the building of a motivation program will
have successes and failures and what may work at one time and place may not
work in another time and place. Be flexible, learn from your mistakes and
use this information as a beginning of your own studies, learning and efforts.