Rise Performance Group

How to Motivate Employees Without Dangling the Dollar

Part 1 – Author: Scheherazade Perkins, M.A.

In this environment of economic downturn, tightened belts, and constrained resources, managers are experiencing the need to get creative about motivating their employees, without dangling the dollar in front of them. It is a fact that tightened belts mean fewer dollars available for dangling. Even in these rough times, not much has really changed about motivating people. Most HR professionals and OD specialists agree that money never really motivated anybody. Soon after your employees receive a salary increase and calculate the increase in taxes, the excitement of the increase dissipates.

Renowned behavioral scientist, Frederick Herzberg, documented his study of employee motivation during the 1950s and 60s and published what he called the Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory (sometimes known as Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory.) Essentially, he affirms that there are six distinctive things about a job that enhance job satisfaction, and seven things that seem to be related directly to job dissatisfaction. He further postulates that employees are likely to become dissatisfied in the absence of such basic things as desirable working conditions, appropriate salary, or good supervision. Herzberg called these basic conditions “hygiene factors.” However, he states that the presence of these factors does not necessarily imply automatic job satisfaction. Conversely, factors such as the work itself, achievement, recognition, and advancement tended to inspire greater job satisfaction. (MindTools.com, October, 2010)

The second model that has stood the test of time in terms of employee motivation is Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. He states that individuals are on an ongoing quest to satisfy a set of pre-ordained needs. Needs are met one level at a time; each level sought in succession after the fulfillment of the preceding need. Simply stated, people don’t seek to fulfill their need for safety and security until their physiological needs are met. They are less likely to respond to stimuli that appeal to safety, security or self-esteem if they are struggling to meet their basic needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Similarly, when those whose needs for safety, security, and self-esteem are already met, they will not be as responsive to attempts to further enhance their satisfaction in this area. Nor will they be prone to skip a need to fulfill a higher order need. Example: If they are worried about protecting their home, they are not nearly as concerned about feeling self-actualized and fulfilled as a person.

Motivating strategies must be appropriate for the situation, and situations do change. A doctor on a flight to receive a Nobel Prize for an outstanding medical intervention may be feeling quite self-actualized until the left engine of his airplane malfunctions. Chances are his basic physiological needs will surface as the number one priority until that need is satisfied.

The third premise, that has seen very little change down through the years, is the idea that people motivate themselves. The concept is that no one can motivate another individual. So, whether we deploy expensive compensation plans, radical recognition programs, elaborate education and training programs, or extravagant work settings, motivation is an internal trait that walks through the door with the employee. The best we can do is to provide an environment that stimulates self-motivated people to motivate themselves.

Who are these highly self motivated individuals and how do you recognize them? Understanding these motivational theories is step one. In the next part of this blog series, I will outline ten traits of self-motivated people. As managers and leaders, it is our job to recognize and replicate the attributes of self-motivated people throughout our organizations. I will also discuss, in detail, how to discover what motivates your employees without dangling the dollar. Money is the easy way to motivate staff, and it rarely achieves the desired results. Something as small as saying thank you for a job well done can have significant impact on your staff members.

Stay tuned for next week’s article!

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