What Motivates People

By: Beth L. Rosenberg

Every six months or so, Bill Ray reviews a booklet called The Common Denominator of Success.

He also discusses the formula for achievement with new employees in his office of the Prudential Insurance Co. of America, hoping to offer them insight and inspiration.

The message is simple: Successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful ones are not.

Inspiring workers to do their very best, to test their limits and keep them interested in the day-to-day duties, is a task faced by many pealed in business today.

“The successful people, even when they get a lot of rejection, they don’t stop. They keep doing things and end up being successful,” said Ray, a district manager in Indianapolis for the financial services firm.

The words, written in 1940 by a Prudential executive, help Ray try to figure out why the salaries of the 45 agents under him range from $15,000 annually to six figures for doing the same job. Why such a disparity?

Ray said he believes many agents got to a point where they’re comfortable with their income and won’t try to improve.

“If he’s not motivated and has no objective and goals to increase his numbers, he’ll reach a plateau and level off and continue to fall behind, if for no other reason than inflation,” he said.

“I’d say there’s a comfort zone — 50 percent of my people are at that — where they’re very comfortable with their income, they’re able to buy and do the things they want to do and have no desire to go further than that. That’s unfortunate. We continue to look for ways to motivate them more.”

Inspiring workers is a subject gaining more attention as companies realize what a huge investment they make in their employees. As competition grows globally, the drive and attitude of workers can make in their employees. As competition grows globally, the drive and attitude of workers can make a difference on the balance sheet.

Some company officials say financial incentives are the best way to get employees to reach higher. Others believe the desire to achieve comes from within.

“I think the vast majority of people are mature, healthy adults who have a pretty strong disposition to work already,” said Dennis W. Organ, professor of organizational behavior at Indiana University. “If it’s a scale of one to 10, maybe it’s not a 10, but it’s a lot more than a one.

“People naturally assume they have certain things to do and certain obligation and contributions they’re expected to make. A lot of what is important in management is not doing things that would discourage or stifle what I think is a fairly healthy motivational level of people. Some times it’s important to redirect those motivational energies toward somewhat different ends.”

Organ said motivation can become a problem if a manager focuses only on the negative, never taking time to say something positive to an employee. What Organ calls “chronic, glaring inequities” in the work-place also create difficulties, such as unfair pay or treatment.

“More than anything else, people want to have the faith that things will work out right in the long run.” Organ said. “Maybe that won’t happen today… but if you let them know you will hear them out when they think there’s an inequity when reasonably well founded… and there will be some attempt to deal with them in the long run, some balancing, you keep those motivations alive.”

Steve Hanes, operations manager for the firm that presents Dale Carnegie Training courses in central Indiana, said he believes the best strategy for managers is to create an environment where employees want to move forward themselves.

“With some people it will be recognition or getting pats on the back for a job well done.” Hanes said. “For others it might be a bonus of money or additional responsibilities. There are all different kinds of things. In motivation classes, we say, ‘Talk to your people and find out what makes them tick and get motivating results through that work.'”

The American Productivity & Quality Center in Houston polled its members — primarily employees at Fortune 500 companies — on what motivates them.

Overall, the top factors listed that motivate people were challenging work, valuing their opinion when making decisions, recognition for a job well done, wages clearly tied to performance and pride in their company. The least motivating factor was providing special incentives, such as merchandise and travel.

Charles E. Singer, vice president/resident manager for Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc. in Downtown Indianapolis, said he tries to build a team attitude and inspire his 36 investment brokers through individual recognition.

“If someone is successful for whatever reason, everyone else is made aware of it,” he said. “Their name might be put on a special board or they might be given an announcement at a staff meeting. If someone has a good month, I put a note on my daily memo congratulating them. Most of our people are motivated anyway, as all sales people are, based on the goals they set early in the year, so it’s monetary to some degree.

Money Isn’t Enough

But Singer, who has been in the business for 11 years, said money isn’t enough.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “For motivation, it lasts for 10 or 12 days. After that, you’ve got to be motivated to work for some other reason… There’s a school of though… that the things we need most are shelter and food, provided by money. But, power, esteem, respect for other people and self-actualization motivate people to higher levels.”

Don Lindemann, president and chief executive officer at Citizens Gas & Coke Utility, said he thinks employees do better when you take an interest in them and really hear what they have to say.

“I don’t think there’s really anything magical or exotic about that,” he said. “When I say listen to them, I mean listen to their concerns, complaints, their suggestions. Try to react to all those. I think it’s awfully important to communicate with your people and let them know what’s going on and why things are going on.”

Toward that end, Lindemann said, Citizens officials are having several meetings with the 1,200 employees, as well as using newsletters, special bulletins and a quarterly videotape to communicate. The latter is a newsreel that shows a more global view of the company, such as the status of construction projects, information about employee quality team efforts and the design of a new customer service center.

Lindemann said a profit-sharing program is just beginning in the manufacturing division as a way to focus everyone on improving profitability. And the company just began a new recognition banquet, during which outstanding teams and workers are honored. He said people seems to respond better to honors than to strictly financial rewards.

Other Incentives

A national study in 1986 of nearly 1,600 organizations by the American Productivity Center and the American Compensation Association looked at non-traditional reward and human resource practices.

Among the practices adopted to motivate were “gainsharing,” where employees earn bonuses tied to unitwide performance, and small-group incentives where the reward is based on performance of a small group. Individual incentives tied to performance, as well as profit-sharing, were included as motivational approaches.

Some Indiana companies use a review process in which objectives are outlined and individual goals are set. Other firms create incentive prizes, such as a trip, dinner or other merchandise to help the employee focus on achieving.

Spencer Industries Inc., a manufacturer of custom plastics parts in Dale created a plan called the Spencer Teamwork and Employee Participation System. It outlines the company’s dedication to being the best in the industry and a belief in seeing employees succeed in meeting personal objectives and potential.

Company President James D. Edwards said he strongly believes employees have a lot to contribute and this was a way to tap into their knowledge.

Spencer Industries has a gainsharing program and an employee stock ownership plan, which have helped develop a partnership between the company and workers, according to Henry P. Conn, chief executive officer and president of Tarkenton Conn & Co., a management consulting firm in Atlanta that worked with Spencer Industries.

“They have a real partnership from a financial, as well as involvement, standpoint,” said Conn, co-author of Maximum Performance Management. “What more could you want for employee motivation? That makes everyone a manager.”

Looking Inward

Manouchehr Hourmozdi, a consultant and owner of Carmelbasca organizational information, said companies need to take a hard look at themselves to move ahead and consider what is possible for the future. He said that includes creating a work-place that’s uplifting and geared toward producing.

He said he believes businesses must develop an environment of “you and me,” not “you or me,” to motivate employees to become what he calls a championship team.

“As managers, we believe we already know how to manage and motivate,” Hourmozdi said. “Perhaps what we most need to learn could be what we think we already know and be committed to take a fresh look at the art of motivating and working together to produce the intended results.”

After assessing existing conditions, he said, managers should confront their situation in a realistic way. Communication comes next, Hourmozdi said, in creating an environment where everyone is committed. He said the whole staff should agree to eliminate nagging, complaining and gossiping because it’s counterproductive.

“Have the people speak their vision for themselves, their work and for the team,” he said. “People who operate from a vision work with a different commitment than those without. They don’t have much attention on the petty stuff.”

Declare the results up front, he said, of what the team is committed to doing because that calls for action. They should have mutual support and take an ongoing look at what steps are working and what could be done to move the group forward.

(The above material appeared as an unknown news article.)

Christian Information Network