When I became a manager, one of my initial challenges was how to motivate my employees, since each of them was so different in their ideals, styles and personalities. “Alvin” was very aggressive, bold and worked best when rewarded with financial incentives, while “Betty” was passive, laid back, and motivated more by public recognition. “Charlie” had none of these characteristics and never seemed motivated!
As I looked further into different motivational techniques, I discovered how psychologist Abraham Maslow described a hierarchy in the form of a pyramid. It has five levels where a person’s needs must be satisfied before they move up to the next level. The bottom level is physiological, then safety, then social, then esteem, and at the highest level is self-actualization.
I have had employees who were at the physiological and safety levels that worked harder when money was the reward, since their primary needs involved paying bills, acquiring more items, or accruing funds for a savings account.
For employees at the social and esteem levels, a primary motivator is recognition by their manager or something that connects them with their team members. At the highest level of self-actualization, employees are self-motivated to work to the best of their abilities and essentially become their own bosses. Managers can still give incentives, but their rewards primarily come from within themselves.
When attempting to motivate employees, managers need to realize that every person has a unique set of needs that may or may not be readily shown. This may sound obvious, but it is easy to think that since giving a thank you card worked for “Betty”, it will work for everyone else. Managers should listen to their employees and ask what rewards they would like to receive. They may also need to modify their own social style, depending on the employee’s personality. Be sensitive, when appropriate. Finally, realize that a combination of techniques can also get people motivated.
For example, I sent out a department e-mail regarding a large project that needed to be completed within 30 days. I constructed the message in the form of an infomercial, complete with a reference about Ginzu knifes, so that they would receive the assignment in a fun, creative manner. The additional incentive was a pizza lunch for those who completed their part of the project on time. After one week, the project was almost complete!
Asking pertinent questions, being proactive and modifying motivational techniques to best match the individual’s current needs are important to retain employees who contribute to the organization’s success. After all, without qualified, hard-working employees, where would companies be?
What motivates you? Do you agree with the ideas above? What other techniques have you used?
Jeremy joined Empathia (then NEAS) in 2007 as Manager, Client Care Services, then became an Account Manager/Sales Consultant in 2012. He is also a certified wellness and tobacco cessation coach. Jeremy has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Organizational Management. Prior to joining Empathia, he spent 14 years in the EAP industry in a variety of roles with another behavioral healthcare organization. Jeremy enjoys reading, photography, music, and spending time with his wife and daughters.