Learning from management experience how to motivate employees

I recently came across a survey, Managing Reward Risks: An Integrated Approach, which has found that there is growing unease amongst HR professionals in the UK regarding how their organisations reward employees. Says Charles Cotton, performance and reward adviser of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD): "The past 12 months have been a turbulent time for many employers in terms of pay and benefits practice. They are fearful that the way that reward helps them attract, retain and motivate their employees is no longer appropriate."

Reading this study, I couldn't help but think of what Steve Brown wrote about motivating employees in his management classic 13 Fatal Errors Managers Make: "In all of industrial history, we have developed only three approaches for getting employees to produce more. Every motivational scheme falls into one of these three broader categories: fear, rewards and belief building."

Drawing on the management experience of hundreds of thousands of client managers, Steve finishes this proposition by advocating only one of the three tactics, but before I get to that, an anecdote on managing with fear:

A past client (let's call him Sam) once told us about a trainer he brought in to work with his team. This was several decades earlier – an era with a very different workplace culture. Working with the entire team on the very first day, the trainer asked Sam how he would confront a poorly performing employee. Sam started to give what he felt was a reasonable response: "Well, I'd pull them aside and try to find out..."

With Sam in the middle of his thought, and without any warning, the trainer leaned over the table, grabbed Sam by the scruff of his shirt, pulled him across the table, threw him to the floor and said, "That's how you confront!"

Clearly this was a different age, to be sure. But now or then, I think you can guess whether or not we'd recommend this form of motivation!

Putting fear aside, of the other two motivational approaches to growing employee engagement and productivity that Steve identified – rewards and belief building – Steve continues the proposition cited above by promoting the latter, saying, "Only belief building will give you long-term productivity."

On the face of it, rewards are an enticing tactic to further motivate your employees. As evidenced in a recent L.E.A.D survey by Leadership Management Australasia, the number one characteristic for an 'employer of choice' was that they recognise and reward staff well! But they're also an easy way out, too often a band-aid that buys your organisation only short-term results, measured literally in weeks. So to those HR professionals reading CIPD's study, we recommend that you spend less time thinking about rewards and devote more time to whether or not your managers at all levels are equipped to build belief amongst your employees. Belief in the organisation, belief in what it can do for its customers and shareholders and belief in themselves and the contribution they make.

Posted: 21/09/2010 7:18:08 PM by Andy Klein | with 1 comments
Filed under: belief, fear, management, motivation, rewards
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Leon Noone
G'Day Andy,
After more than 40 years in and around HR and consulting I believe that there are four essentials in building belief;

1. make it absolutely crystal clear to employees about the performance, not behaviour, that's expected of them
2. Put systems in place that make it impossible for them to fail
3. make employees responsible for measuring their own performance
4. ensure that employees understand that the basic human unit in the workplace is the team, not the individual.

When that happens, rewards will become quite apparent.

One other thing; make sure you have fun.


22/09/2010 3:03:27 PM