There are many factors at play that determine the motivation level of employees, and in fact, business owners. It is arguably one of the most difficult business problems to overcome, and is certainly the source of frustration for many business owners and managers.

Managers and leaders are paid to help people do their jobs to a certain standard. An important aspect of this is promoting a climate where people intrinsically want to do the best job possible. As a leader you need to be able to:

  • Understand the basic principles of motivation
  • Understand what the needs of your employees are and,
  • Know how to build engagement and motivation within individuals and teams, and understand what causes them to lose it.

So let’s have a look at it.

Firstly, a few definitions of motivation are required. Motivation can be defined as:

  1. ‘A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way’
  2. ‘How willing an individual is to expend energy and effort to get a job or task done’

For business owners and managers, your challenge is not to transform inherently lazy people into productive employees, because ideally you would have screened and rejected them at the recruitment stage. The same goes for people that are primarily focussed on how much money they can earn. Your challenge is to channel the existing energies of your employees into a desirable work performance.

So are people motivated by money? You bet they are. But money alone will not hold their motivation for long if there are few other motivating factors at play for them in their work environment. Money is what I all a ‘foundation’ factor. It helps to satisfy the need for security and the need for recognition of good performance (esteem). More about that later.

Most people will forgo moving to a job that pays substantially more, to remain working in a place where they can develop and use their skills and talents in a culture that satisfies their needs. The basic principle of motivation is that everything someone does, they do for a reason, either consciously or unconsciously. They will take the action that seems the most likely to meet their needs, providing they believe there is a reasonable likelihood of success.

Needs are the primary driver of behaviour, and the primary driver of goal achievement. For example:

Needs as Motivators

What makes us tick?

I first came across this model below in 1989. It stands the test of time in terms of explaining the basic needs that drive human behaviour. Abraham Maslow first developed his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ theory in 1943!

According to Maslow we have certain needs which he grouped into six categories. He postulated that the lower level categories of needs must be reasonably well satisfied before needs at the next higher level can emerge. He proposed that unsatisfied needs motivate us to take action. In other words, our needs drive our action and behaviour.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

What motivates your employees?

Maslow’s model is a powerful tool to work through with your employees in order to get a better understanding of what motivates them (drives them) and therefore, how you should lead them. Don’t just assume you know what their needs are, ask them, because although they will all share these categories of needs, some needs will be much more important to certain individuals than others. For example, my need for security, self-actualisation and contribution are much higher than my need for esteem (status, control, power).

Use the Raffino ‘Needs Finder’ and the following list to coach your employees through this exercise.

Common ‘foundation needs’ – base level

  • Good values alignment – Security and Esteem needs
  • Good personal relations with management and co-workers – Social need
  • Good physical layout, equipment – Security need
  • Good job instructions, job design, clear expectations, training – Security need
  • Good wages – Security need (and Esteem need for some)
  • To have trouble makers dealt with, job security – Security need
  • To not be stressed – Security need

Common ‘motivational needs’ – higher level

  • Responsibility – Esteem need
  • Feeling of achievement – Esteem need
  • Recognition for good work, to feel valued, feedback on performance – Esteem need
  • Meaningful and challenging work – Self-actualisation need
  • Opportunity for learning and growth, training, advancement- Self-actualisation need
  • Involvement in decisions and strategy – Esteem need
  • Leadership or coaching role – Contribution need

How to engage employees

The following serves as a checklist to ascertain whether your business is implementing initiatives to engage and retain ‘ideal employees’.

Job importance

  • An employee needs to know how and why their job is important to the organisation. Your employees need to be clear on how they are connected to the organisation’s vision and strategy and what role they plan in it. To ensure employees have a good sense of importance:
  • Ensure each employee has a well written position description
  • Create a clear compelling vision and strategy and then communicate it so they understand the role they play
  • Articulate how their position and responsibilities support the company vision, objectives and key strategies
  • Give them job variety and empower them to succeed

Clarity of what is expected of them

  • An employee needs to be very clear on what their manager expects of them. To achieve this:
  • Ensure each employee has a well written position description.
  • Articulate their individual objectives and ensure they are aligned to company objectives.
  • Jointly develop the organisation’s Critical Success Factors and core values.
  • Get them involved in company planning. Don’t treat them like mushrooms.
  • Be clear about your expectations then empower them. Push decision-making down but have quality assurance checks in place.
  • Focus on the leadership skills of the people who lead them. This is critical.

Learning and growth

  • Employees want to know that there is a fair and equitable system for development and that if they perform, then they will be considered for different roles.
  • Create professional and personal development programs.
  • Create opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Provide a coach or mentor.
  • Encourage their development.

Improvement and reward

  • Employees want to make improvements to the organisation and if they do, would like to be rewarded where possible (remuneration and/or a thank you).
  • Recognise their efforts and contributions. Provide occasional unexpected rewards / thank you’s such as a dinner or bottle of wine.
  • Celebrate milestones. For example; day off on birthday, Christmas party, end of FY party, regular staff social events / fun / brainstorming, recognition of commencement anniversary, jobs completed on time celebration / reward.
  • Send them to industry functions / network events and have them report back to the group.
  • Consider an employee share plan where suitable.
  • Consider a performance bonus scheme where suitable and ensure it relates back to company objectives.
  • Ensure they are remunerated fairly and competitively
  • Develop an employee benefit list (monetary and non-monetary) which you can drag out as necessary, as people sometimes take things for granted.

Regular communication and feedback

Employees want to know when they, the department and the organisation are doing well or not so well. Keep them involved.

  • Provide regular feedback about
    • How the business and industry is performing.
    • How each employee is contributing to the overall business performance.
    • How they are performing on things such as quality, teamwork, productivity.
  • Structure regular formal appraisals where necessary.
  • Empower them to find solutions and take initiative.
  • Give them support and recommendations when stuck.
  • Keep them inspired and motivated around the vision and objectives.
  • Involve them in any significant changes so they are advocates of change not opponents of it.
  • Provide them with mentoring or coaching opportunities.

Clear values

Employees need to be part of a culture that is aligned with their individual needs.

  • Jointly develop the core values and company culture.
  • Insist on behaviour alignment with core values (integrity) and demand high standards.
  • People need to be appreciated, valued and acknowledged. Make the workplace like a family and nurture a sense of community, connection and collaboration.
  • Create a culture where interaction can take place between generations so intergenerational perspectives can be shared and understood.
  • Create a culture of fairness / equality among co-workers, respect and trust.
  • Jointly develop a code of conduct.
  • Ensure they have a good work / life balance.
  • Ensure all leaders and managers display and demonstrate the company values in everything they do.

The game for employers is to be able to attract and retain highly skilled, motivated and productive employees who will contribute to the growth and the development of the business. It’s about becoming an ’employer of choice’.

Employers of choice typically exhibit common methods and traits for engaging employees. They work hard at identifying and putting strategies and systems in place that maximise productivity in the workplace.

The game for employers … is to be able to develop and retain skilled, engaged, motivated, and productive employees who will contribute significantly to the growth and development of the business.

Post by:
Wayne Griffiths
Raffino Business Solutions

We are proud to partner Marsh Tincknell to assist their clients in reaching their goals and attaining freedom. Please contact your manager at Marsh Tincknell on 3422 8000 to discuss how Raffino may be able to assist.