Opinion & Blogs

How to motivate and inspire your workforce

Money as a motivator is a very temporary thing at best.

Money doesn’t motivate me. It never has.   If you want to light a fire under my butt, offer me an opportunity to work on something important or shower me with adulation for something I’ve already completed. Put me in a situation where I can laugh with the people I’m working with and I will be motivated to excellence. But that’s just me; or is it?  I wanted to find out what motivates employees. I contacted 35 of my finest clients and asked them. Here’s what I found out.

We all need money to carry on.  The almighty dollar has long been the great motivator. However money is actually low on the list of motivating factors in the current workforce.

Alison Carroll an Associate Executive Director at Putnam Family & Community Services tells me that “Money as a motivator is a very temporary thing at best. A combination of consistent expression of sincere belief in the employee, coupled with the knowledge that the part they play in the organization is vital and needed, is the best motivator. When people feel that they have a valued role and are personally counted on, they take more pride in their work.”

Salary, commissions and benefits are key in choosing a job, but once we are hired, we are more motivated by appreciation, recognition and the corporate climate than we are money.

“When employees know that their leadership cares about them, and the job/task they were hired for matters, they are motivated. Treating them well is a bonus that will drive extra effort from them.” says Tim Smith of Smile Therapy.

Income has to be comparable to what others receive in the same positions. Certainly, if your employees  feel underpaid  and  taken advantage of,  that will  drag  down  motivation, however feelings of achievement,   an atmosphere of learning and growing, opportunity to inspire others, room for creativity, fun and enjoyment, having an identity and clear purpose and being able to laugh and enjoy colleagues are actually the keys that will unlock your team’s potential and move them towards higher achievement.

“If you motivate people properly, their job satisfaction and engagement improves. And when they are engaged and having fun, doing things they enjoy, they are more productive,” said Terri Zbick, VP Lee Hecht Harrison, a global talent mobility leader with over 300 offices worldwide in more that 60 countries. “The key” she continued, “is understanding how employees define their own fun and enjoyment and finding what makes them tick and creating an atmosphere where people can do the great things. That generally happens when people are having fun.”

There are several examples of companies who feel this same way and who have changed the way they motivate their employees accordingly. My favorite is the Google 80/20 rule   At Google engineers can spend 20 percent of their time working on anything they want. They have liberty over their time, their task, their team and their technique. Profound amounts of freedom. This freedom tells them that they are trusted and valued.

Loretta Kaminsky the Assistant Director at Canisius College Women’s Business Center says, “To motivate  employees give them the opportunity to share their ideas for improving the business, and when you implement those ideas, give them the credit.”

Almost half of the new products in a typical year at Google are created during that 20 percent. Gmail, Orkut, and Google News were all created while someone at Google worked on whatever the heck they fancied. Freedom, know how and purpose, this is a better way to motivate people.

You have to build motivation around the desire to do things that matter. Employees have to be interested in the work and feel like part of the solution of something more important.

“Employees are motivated when they are valued and shown appreciation on a frequent basis. states Michele Couperthwait New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Company, ” They need to know they are part of a team that matters!”

After talking with many leaders in the business world, I see that to dangle a golden carrot in front of the average employee is futile. In today’s business world people need to know that what they do matters. We all have a deep desire to get better and better at something that matters.We want to know that what we are doing day to day has a hand in something larger than ourselves. These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses. As leaders we can no long manage people, we must engage them, encourage them and appreciate them. Now you’re motivating.

Here are a few more quotes I thought worth sharing:

“Employees are motivated when they are respected.”  Kathleen Campbell Business Manager NYS Insurance Fund

Catherine Green the Director Human Resources at P.E.A.C.E., Inc. said, “Our employees want to feel valued and respected. They want to feel that the work they are doing is making a difference.”

“I believe faith motivates my employees. When I demonstrate, through my words and actions, that I have faith in my employees and faith in their work, that motivates them to continue to strive for excellence.” says Colleen Corsi the Executive Director at NYS AHPERD

“Making a difference in someone’s life is a motivator for me and makes work enjoyable. I cannot imagine working in any other kind of environment.” Gail P. Clark, Director of Marketing & Community Relations, Littleton Regional Healthcare, NH

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing, Motivation determines what you do, Attitude determines how well you do it. It doesn’t mean anything to be motivated, if your attitude doesn’t project it and bring others along for the ride.  Carla Schaefer BSN, RN, OCN Nurse Manager, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Rutgers University New Brunswick, NJ

“Communication is key. The employer must be clear and consistent about what the job is and what his/her expectations are for the employee’s performance.  The employee should feel able to communicate with the employer if he/she doesn’t understand something or has an issue, a problem, or a suggestion for a different way to approach something.” Sarah O’Connell, Business Advisor, NYS Small Business Development Center, Watertown, NY

“Being where they want to be, doing what they want to do, respecting those they do it for motivates people! Everyone thinks money is the great motivator; study after study finds that is NOT TRUE!  Employees don’t quit jobs; they quit Supervisors! Employees who have the being- doing-respecting  environment,  consider  money  far  less  important  than  environment. When employees are NOT in the being-doing-respecting environment, no amount of money can motivate them; a large amount can make them work for a paycheck, but won’t motivate them to greatness.” Anne Tindall, Employee Management Strategies, Inc. Fayetteville
yvonne conteYvonne Conte is a corporate culture expert, motivational humorist, professional speaker, and coach. She has Humor Advantage, Inc. offices in Warners, NY, and Fort Myers, FL, and is the founder of the Day of Joy conference. Her clients include small, medium, and fortune 500 companies. In addition to being a radio and TV personality, Conte is the author of six books including ‘Serious Laughter.’ Find more information online at www.yvonneconte.com

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