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Employee motivation is a continuing challenge at work.

Particularly in work environments that don’t emphasize employee satisfactionas part of an embraced and supported overall business strategy, supervisors and managers walk a tough road.

On the one hand, they recognize their power in drawing forth the best employees have to offer; on the other, they feel unsupported, rewarded or recognized themselves for their work to develop motivated, contributing employees.

My word to managers? Get over it. No work environment will ever perfectly support your efforts to help employees choose motivated behaviors at work. Even the most supportive workplaces provide daily challenges and often appear to operate at cross purposes with your goals and efforts to encourage employee motivation.

The worst workplaces for employees? Let’s not even go there. They struggle to engage a fraction of their employees’ motivation and desire to contribute. They never obtain their employees’ discretionary energy.

No matter what climate your organization provides to support employee motivation, you can, within the perimeters of your areas of responsibility, and even beyond, if you choose to extend your reach, create an environment that fosters and calls forth employee motivation.


Seven Opportunities to Influence Employee Motivation

You can, daily, take actions that will increase employee satisfaction. Recommended are actions that employees say, in a recent Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) survey, are important to their job satisfaction. Management actions in these areas will create a work environment conducive to employee motivation. Additionally, in determining the areas in which to provide employee motivation tips, here are key ideas from readers about how to increase employee motivation and employee job satisfaction. Four of the five most important considerations in employee motivation: job security, benefits(especially health care) with the importance of retirement benefits rising with age of the employee, compensation/pay, and safety in the work environment are discussed in an article that addresses issues that are company-wide and rarely in the hands of an individual manager or supervisor.

Specific Actions to Increase Employee Motivation

These are seven consequential ways in which a manager or supervisor can create a work environment that will foster and influence increases in employee motivation - quickly.








employees need to perform their jobs most effectively. Employees want to be members of the in-crowd, people who know what is happening at work as soon as other employees know. They want the information necessary to do their jobs. They need enough information so that they make good decisions about their work.

Meet with employees following management staff meetings to update them about any company information that may impact their work. Changing due dates, customer feedback, product improvements, training opportunities, and updates on new departmental reporting or interaction structures are all important to employees. Communicate more than you think is necessary.

Stop by the work area of employees who are particularly affected by a change to communicate more. Make sure the employee is clear about what the change means for their job, goals, time allocation, and decisions.

Communicate daily with every employee who reports to you. Even a pleasant “good morning” enables the employee to engage with you.


Hold a weekly one-on-one meeting with each employee who reports to you. They like to know that they will have this time every week. Encourage employees to come prepared with questions, requests for support, troubleshooting ideas for their work, and information that will keep you from being blindsided or disappointed by a failure to produce on schedule or as committed.

Employees find interaction and communication with and attention from senior and executive managers motivational. In a recent study by Towers Perrin (now Towers Watson), the Global Workforce Study which included nearly 90,000 workers from 18 countries, the role of senior managers in attracting employee discretionary effort exceeded that of immediate supervisors.

Communicate openly, honestly and frequently. Hold whole staff meetings periodically, attend department meetings regularly, and communicate by wandering around work areas engaging staff and demonstrating interest in their work.

Implement an open door policy for staff members to talk, share ideas, and discuss concerns. Make sure that managers understand the


meetings that cross functional areas. and meetings. unusual events. Provide the opportunity for employees to develop their skills and abilities. inquire about vacation trips.  Allow staff members to attend important meetings. and ask about how both personal and company events turned out. Congratulate staff on life events such as new babies. Employees want to continue to develop their knowledge and skills. It’s quite a learning experience for a staff person to attend an executive meeting with you or represent the department in your absence.  Bring staff to interesting. Care enough to stay tuned into these kinds of employee life events and activities. 5 .problems that they can and should solve will be directed back to them. Employees do not want jobs that they perceive as no-brain drudge work. but it is the executive’s job to listen. activities. and that the supervisor normally attends.

boundaries. Or. all employees have their turn. and projects.  Reassign responsibilities that the employee does not like or that are routine. Employees gain a lot of motivation from the nature of and the work itself. Employees seek autonomy and independence in decision making and in how they approach accomplishing their work and job. at least. Personal development goals belong in the same plan. Assign backup responsibilities for tasks.  Provide the opportunity for the employee to cross-train in other roles and responsibilities. and critical points at which you want to receive feedback. and contract employees may find the work challenging and rewarding. Within the clear framework of the PDP and ongoing effective communication. Newer staff. 6 . Make sure the employee has several goals that he or she wants to pursue as part of every quarter’s performance development plan (PDP). functions. interns. delegate decision making after defining limits.  Provide more authority for the employee to self-manage and make decisions.

 Provide more information by including the employee on specific mailing lists. in company briefings. Expand the job to include new. provide more access to important and desirable meetings and projects. Assign responsibilities to the employee that will help him or her grow their skills and knowledge. Stretching assignments develop staff capabilities and increase their ability to contribute at work. so the employee does not feel that what was delegated was “more” work. (Remove some of the time-consuming. less desirable job components at the same time. higher level responsibilities.)  Provide the employee a voice in higher level meetings. 7 .  Provide more opportunity for the employee to impact department or company goals. priorities. and in your confidence. and measurements.

(These are employee complaints that readers identify as regularly occurring in their workplaces.) Even if the complaint cannot be resolved to the employee’s satisfaction. the fact that you addressed the complaint and provided feedback about the consideration of and resolution of the complaint to the employee is appreciated. Elicit and address employee concerns and complaints before they make an employee or workplace dysfunctional. Listening to employee complaints and keeping the employee informed about how you are addressing the complaint are critical to producing a motivating work environment. 8 . The importance of the feedback loop in addressing employee concerns cannot be overemphasized.  Keep your door open and encourage employees to come to you with legitimate concerns and questions. Assign reporting staff members to his or her leadership on projects or teams or under his or her direct supervision. Most employees find this attention rewarding. Assign the employee to head up projects or teams.  Enable the employee to spend more time with his or her boss.

a cutting from a plant in your office. out-of-the-ordinary job content opportunities. A card.  Verbally praise and recognize an employee for a contribution. they also appreciate praise. their favorite candy bar. Nothing causes more consternation for an employee than feeling that their legitimate concern went unaddressed. Recognition of employee performance is high on the list of employee needs for motivation. Always address and provide feedback to the employee about the status of their expressed concern.  Write a thank you note that praises and thanks an employee for a specific contribution in as much detail as possible to reinforce and communicate to the employee the behaviors you want to continue to see. fruit for the 9 . Visit the employee in his or her work space. The concern or complaint cannot disappear into a dark hole forever.Many supervisors equate reward and recognition with monetary gifts. and attention from their supervisor. While employees appreciate money.  Give the employee a small token of your gratitude. a verbal or written thank you.

Even if you think the idea won't work.whole office. based on the traditions and interaction in your office. will make an employee’s day. and more. disappointments occur. Encourage the employee who brings you an idea or improvement.  Avoid cancelling regular meetings. offer the reason. stop by the employee’s work area to apologize. or you need to address employee performance improvement.  Talk daily with each employee who reports to you. and immediately reschedule. and if you must. The daily interaction builds the relationship and will stand for a lot when times are troubled. this is not what the 10 .  The interaction of an employee with his or her immediate supervisor is the most significant factor in an employee's satisfaction with work. or you believe your executive leadership won't support it. Regularly missing an employee meeting send a powerful message of disrespect. that the idea has been unsuccessfully tried in the past. Employees appreciate a responsive and involved relationship with their immediate supervisor. Practice just listening.

ask questions to further elicit information.  Remember that your nonverbal communication communicates more expressively than the words you use to convey your honest response to employee thoughts. And. Stay on top of what your staff 11 . and make their thoughts insignificant. or partial attention are insulting and degrading. support the employee in his or her quest to try out the innovation. and suggestions.  The supervisor's relationship to reporting staff is the single most important factor in employee retention.employee wants to hear from the supervisor. Pay attention. and more. provide time for experimentation. concerns. it's not in your best interests for employee motivation to put the kibosh on employee contributions and ideas. Think creatively about how you can explore the idea. rolling eyes. Encouragement brings payback in positive employee motivation. You'll tick them off. Lose your reactions: shrugged shoulders. deflate them. and focus on understanding the employee's communication.

. 2008. Ph. Participants consisted of 28 African-American human service employees working at assisted living and mental health programs in Maryland. Bernard. I'm willing to make a serious bet that. excited. you'll win with motivated. contributing employees. AAT 3291476 Abstract (Summary) Research suggests that there is a lack of information concerning AfricanAmerican human service employees. Participants completed the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire to determine 12 .needs and wants to provide a work environment for employee motivation. if you pay constant attention to these significant factors in employee motivation. Can work get any better than that for a manager or supervisor? (For review The relationship between employee motivation and job satisfaction of African-American human service employees by Grenway. This study examined the work-lives of African-American human service employees with respect to the relationship between job satisfaction and employee motivation. Employee motivation is a common interest from supervisors and managers who are responsible to oversee the work of other employees. You can increase your efforts to improve employee motivation. The model addressed the workrelated needs of employees by promoting social and cultural change within human service organizations. In addition to addressing the aforementioned problem. This study employed a concurrent mixed-methods research approach. this study developed the contextual foundations of a motivation and satisfaction model created to assist in the retention and social enhancement of African-American employees. The big seven actions and behaviors that you can make happen every day for employee motivation are covered in this article. 166 pages.D. Walden University.

independent samples t-test. 673 Discount: Rs. Peitone Publisher: Mcgraw-hill (Oct 1998) Price: Rs. and multiple regressions were used as statistical analysis tools. The most evident statistical relationship focused on the effect of technology in relation to employee needs and job satisfaction. Rate this product 1 2 3 4 5 Be the first to write a Review       Motivating Employees (Paperback) by Anne Bruce . 168 (Prices are inclusive of all taxes) Imported Edition. Roger A. Analysis of Variance. Delivered in 8 business days. To determine employee motivation levels. Collective interview responses were recorded and formulated into a single qualitative narrative.job satisfaction levels. The qualitative narrative was analyzed and segmented into 35 theme-based categories. participants took part in a qualitative series of face-to-face interviews with questions based primarily on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs model and Socio-technical theory. 13 . The theme-based categories were further analyzed in relation to data provided by the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionarre. Analysis of Variance and multiple regression suggested that there is a minimal to moderate relationship between satisfaction and motivation for the aforementioned population. James S. 841 Rs. Formisano .

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or systematic large-scale distribution 38 . Articles appearing in the Journal become the property of the Journal. ISSN 1077-5315. Inclusion of articles in other publications.Understanding Employee Motivation [Copyright © by Extension Journal. Inc. electronic sources. Single copies of articles may be reproduced in electronic or print form for use in educational or training activities.

conducted by Elton Mayo from 1924 to 1932 (Dickson. The hand-delivered descriptive survey addressed ten motivating factors in the context of employee motivation theory. Carefully designed reward systems that include job enlargement.16@osu.] Abstract The study examined the ranked importance of motivational factors of employees at The Ohio State University's Piketon Research and Extension Center and Enterprise Center. 1973). The Hawthorne Studies began 39 . monetary. Lindner Research and Extension Associate The Ohio State University Piketon Research and Extension Center Piketon. Findings suggest interesting work and good pay are key to higher employee James R. internal and external stipends. joe-ed@joe. What perhaps changed this way of thinking about employees was research. 1973). and non-monetary compensation should be considered. job enrichment. Ohio Internet address: lindner. employees were considered just another input into the production of goods and services. referred to as the Hawthorne Studies.may be done only with prior electronic or written permission of the Journal Editorial Office. Introduction to Motivation At one time. This study found employees are not motivated solely by money and employee behavior is linked to their attitudes (Dickson.

social. safety. and selfactualizing. The more positive the reward the more likely the employee will be highly motivated. Maslow argued that lower level needs had to be satisfied before the next higher level need would motivate employees. 1979). According to Maslow. Motivation Theories Understanding what motivated employees and how they were motivated was the focus of many researchers following the publication of the Hawthorne Study results (Terpstra. Motivator or intrinsic factors. such as achievement and recognition. 1965). Five major approaches that have led to our understanding of motivation are Maslow's need-hierarchy theory. the more negative the reward the less likely the employee will be motivated. Herzberg's twofactor theory. employees have five levels of needs (Maslow. 1964). Vroom's theory is based on the belief that employee effort will lead to performance and performance will lead to rewards (Vroom. Rewards may be either positive or negative. and Skinner's reinforcement theory. 1943): physiological. ego. Conversely. 1959). produce job dissatisfaction. Adams' equity theory. 40 . Mausner. Hygiene or extrinsic factors. produce job satisfaction. Adams' theory states that employees strive for equity between themselves and other workers. Herzberg's work categorized motivation into two factors: motivators and hygienes (Herzberg. whereby the needs and motivation of employees become the primary focus of managers (Bedeian.the human relations approach to management. Vroom's expectancy theory. Equity is achieved when the ratio of employee outcomes over inputs is equal to other employee outcomes over inputs (Adams. 1993). & Snyderman. such as pay and job security.

To be effective. 1993). For example. & Lindner. 1995). This is due. motivation is operationally defined as the inner force that drives individuals to accomplish personal and organizational goals. an internal drive to satisfy an unsatisfied need (Higgins. to the fact that what motivates employees changes constantly (Bowen & Radhakrishna. Purpose 41 . unmet needs (Buford. motivating employees is arguably the most complex. Motivation has been defined as: the psychological process that gives behavior purpose and direction (Kreitner. in part. Also. The Role of Motivation Why do we need motivated employees? The answer is survival (Smith. and the will to achieve (Bedeian. a predisposition to behave in a purposive manner to achieve specific. Motivated employees are needed in our rapidly changing workplaces. 1953). as employees get older. Bedeian. 1994). 1995). interesting work becomes more of a motivator. Of all the functions a manager performs. Motivation Defined Many contemporary authors have also defined the concept of motivation. 1991). research suggests that as employees' income increases. Motivated employees are more productive. Motivated employees help organizations survive. Managers should negatively reinforce employee behavior that leads to negative outcomes. 1994).Skinner's theory simply states those employees' behaviors that lead to positive outcomes will be repeated and behaviors that lead to negative outcomes will not be repeated (Skinner. money becomes less of a motivator (Kovach. Managers should positively reinforce employee behaviors that lead to positive outcomes. 1987). managers need to understand what motivates employees within the context of the roles they perform. For this paper.

forestry. 42 . A secondary purpose of the study was to compare the results of this study with the study results from other populations. Ohio. (b) sympathetic help with personal problems. and soil and water resources. Twenty-three of the 25 employees participated in the survey for a participation rate of 92%. (g) good wages. (e) good working conditions. The centers are in Piketon. The mission of the Enterprise Center is to facilitate individual and community leader awareness and provide assistance in preparing and accessing economic opportunities in southern Ohio. The target population of this study included employees at the Piketon Research and Extension Center and Enterprise Center (centers). The Piketon Research and Extension Center has five programs: aquaculture. (h) promotions and growth in the organization. (d) interesting work. (c) personal loyalty to employees. The sample size included all 25 employees of the target population. community economic development. (i) feeling of being in on things. The Enterprise Center has three programs: alternatives in agriculture. the study sought to describe the ranked importance of the following ten motivating factors: (a) job security. The mission of the Piketon Research and Extension Center is to conduct research and educational programs designed to enhance economic development in southern Ohio. horticulture.The purpose of this study was to describe the importance of certain factors in motivating employees at the Piketon Research and Extension Center and Enterprise Center. Specifically. and women's business development. and (j) full appreciation of work done. (f) tactful discipline. Methodology The research design for this study employed a descriptive survey method. small business development.

social. (f) promotions and growth in the organization. The number four ranked motivator. (i) tactful discipline. is a selfactualizing factor. A comparison of these results to Maslow's need-hierarchy theory provides some interesting insight into employee motivation. Kovach. Therefore. job security. 1987). physiological. 1990. (g) feeling of being in on things.From a review of literature. (c) full appreciation of work done. The number one ranked motivator. interesting work. The number three ranked motivator. Harpaz. is a physiological factor. and (j) sympathetic help with personal problems. (e) good working conditions. minor changes in word selection and instructions were made to the questionnaire. As a result of the pilot test. full appreciation of work done. if managers wish to address the most important motivational factor of Centers' employees. according to Maslow (1943). (h) personal loyalty to employees. Face and content validity for the instrument were established using two administrative and professional employees at The Ohio State University. good wages. The questionnaire asked participants to rank the importance of ten factors that motivated them in doing their work: 1=most important . (b) good wages. 10=least important. 1991. The number two ranked motivator. (d) job security. If managers wished to address the second most important motivational factor of 43 . interesting work. . The instrument was pilot tested with three similarly situated employees within the university. is an esteem factor. is a safety factor. a survey questionnaire was developed to collect data for the study (Bowen & Radhakrishna. Results and Discussion The ranked order of motivating factors were: (a) interesting work. Questionnaires were filled out by participants and returned to an intra-departmental mailbox. and esteem factors must first be satisfied. Data was collected through use of a written questionnaire hand-delivered to participants. safety. .

On the other hand. the employee sees a direct relationship between performance (obtaining external funds) and rewards (independent research and Extension projects). employees who are successful in securing funds will be given more opportunities to explore their own research and extension interests (interesting work). Employees who do not secure additional funds will be required to work on research and extension programs identified by the director. the range of motivational factors are mixed in this study. Contrary to what Maslow's theory suggests. Maslow's conclusions that lower level motivational factors must be met before ascending to the next level were not confirmed by this study. the employee went to work for the centers. Assume that a Centers employee just attended a staff meeting where he/she learned a major emphasis would be placed on seeking additional external program funds. motivation will be diminished if the employee is successful in obtaining external funds and the director denies the request to conduct independent research and Extension projects. Additionally. 44 . good pay. The employee will be motivated if he/she is successful in obtaining external funds and given the opportunity to conduct independent research and extension projects. increased pay would suffice. the greater the likelihood he/she will receive external funding. because of the opportunity to conduct independent research and extension projects. in part. Further. Because the state legislature has not increased appropriations to the centers for the next two years (funds for independent research and extension projects will be scaled back). The employee realizes that the more research he/she does regarding funding sources and the more proposals he/she writes. The following example compares the highest ranked motivational factor (interesting work) to Vroom's expectancy theory.centers' employees.

When present. The highest ranked motivator. A study of industrial employees. dissatisfaction will occur. Mausner. The second ranked motivator. yielded the following ranked order of motivational factors: (a) interesting work. employees who feel their work is not being appreciated may work less or undervalue the work of other employees. interesting work. & Snyderman (1959) stated that to the degree that motivators are present in a job. Conversely. Paying centers' employees lower wages (hygiene) than what they believe to be fair may lead to job dissatisfaction. Herzberg. but do not lead to satisfaction. as being too low relative to another employee. Adams (1965) stated employees will attempt to restore equity through various means. employees will be motivated when they are doing interesting work and but will not necessarily be motivated by higher pay. an inequity may exist and the employee will be dis-motivated. is a motivator factor. is only part of the picture. This final example compares the two highest motivational factors to Herzberg's two-factor theory. conducted by Kovach (1987).The following example compares the third highest ranked motivational factor (full appreciation of work done) to Adams's equity theory. Further. hygienes prevent dissatisfaction. The other part is how these rankings compare with related research. motivation will occur. For instance. good wages is a hygiene factor. If an employee at the centers feels that there is a lack of appreciation for work done. In our example. (b) full appreciation 45 . if all the employees at the centers feel that there is a lack of appreciation for work done. inequity may exist. Further. they stated that to the degree that hygienes are absent from a job. about the ranked importance of motivational factors as related to motivational theory. The discussion above. some of which may be counterproductive to organizational goals and objectives. The absence of motivators does not lead to dissatisfaction. the lack of interesting work (motivator) for the centers' employees would not lead to dissatisfaction.

however. and (c) feeling of being in on things. yielded the following ranked order of motivational factors: (a) interesting work. conducted by Harpaz (1990). Implications for Centers and Extension The ranked importance of motivational factors of employees at the centers provides useful information for the centers' director and employees. management should begin by focusing on rewarding (pay and interesting work) employee effort in achieving organizational goals and objectives. and (c) job security. (b) good wages. management should begin by focusing on areas where there may be perceived inequities (pay and full appreciation of work done) before focusing on interesting work and job security. In this study and the two cited above. Another study of employees. but was ranked second in this research and by Kovach (1987). If Vroom's theory is followed. The discrepancies in these research findings supports the idea that what motivates employees differs given the context in which the employee works.of work done. What is clear. If Adams' equity theory is followed. but was ranked second in this research and by Harpaz (1990). interesting work ranked as the most important motivational factor. is that employees rank interesting work as the most important motivational factor. Pay was not ranked as one of the most important motivational factors by Kovach (1987). Knowing how to use this information in motivating centers' employees is complex. management should begin by focusing on pay and job security (hygiene factors) before focusing on interesting work and full appreciation of work done (motivator factors). The strategy for motivating centers' employees depends on which motivation theories are used as a reference point. 46 . Full appreciation of work done was not ranked as one of the most important motivational factors by Harpaz (1990). If Hertzberg's theory is followed.

however. Options such as job enlargement. Job enlargement can be used (by managers) to make work more interesting (for employees) by increasing the number and variety of activities performed. If properly designed reward systems are not implemented. 1990. The effectiveness of Extension is dependent upon the motivation of its employees (Chesney. recruit. Smith. like those presented here. Survey results. 1992. are useful in helping Extension managers determine what motivates employees (Bowen & Radhakrishna. Knowing what motivates employees and incorporating this knowledge into the reward system will help Extension identify. Job enrichment can used to make work more interesting and increase pay by adding higher level responsibilities to a job and providing monetary compensation (raise or stipend) to employees for accepting this responsibility. internal and external stipends. 1990).Regardless of which theory is followed. 1993). and managers must be willing to design reward systems that motivate employees. Extension employees must be willing to let managers know what motivates them. job enrichment. employees will not be motivated. monetary. train. The results presented in this paper also have implications for the entire Cooperative Extension Sysyem. These are just two examples of an infinite number of methods to increase motivation of employees at the centers. and non-monetary compensation should be considered. employ. Buford. 1991). interesting work and employee pay appear to be important links to higher motivation of centers' employees. References 47 . promotions. and retain a productive workforce. The key to motivating centers' employees is to know what motivates them and designing a motivation program based on those needs. Motivating Extension employees requires both managers and employees working together (Buford.

(1995).. Management (3rd ed. Extension management in the information age. E.). Job satisfaction of agricultural education faculty: A constant phenomena. A. 16-22.. Chesney. (pp. Higgins. Journal of Agricultural Education. (1992).. Herzberg. B. 298-302). B. Be your own boss. 31 (1). Jr. Bedeian. Jr. (1973). & Snyderman. J. New York: John Wiley & Sons. M. 2nd ed.. The importance of work goals: an international perspective. I. C.). Journal of Extension. Jr. B. J. (1993). Hawthorne experiments. & Lindner. J. R. (1959). New York: Academic Press. Buford.). Inequity in social exchange. Bowen. Berkowitz (ed. (1994). G. The motivation to work. (1991). W. J. (1990).. Advances in experimental social psychology.. Journal of Extension. New York: Dryden Press. Columbus. A. J. J.. 28 (1). Ohio: Ohio State University Extension. Dickson. Management in Extension (3rd ed. Heyel (ed. A.). & Radhakrishna. S. R. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. A. Work force 2000: is Extension agriculture ready? Journal of Extension. Buford. 32 (2). Harpaz. 48 . (1993). 30 (2).). Bedeian. A. New York: Macmillan.Adams. E. (1965).. 75-93. (1990). 21. The management challenge (2nd ed. J. In C. B. Mausner. In L. Journal of International Business Studies. G. B. The encyclopedia of management. Buford. F.

Skinner. Work and motivation. (1953). (1943). (1987). Kreitner. Vroom. K. 49 . Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. Motivation. 58-65. Tracey (ed. The future of leaders in Extension. Business Horizons. 30. V. Maslow. New York: Wiley. 376. 58. Psychological Review. July 1943. L.). D. R. G. 370-396. Science and Human Behavior. H. Human resources management and development handbook (2nd ed. Smith. (1964). Theories of motivation: borrowing the best. A. A theory of human motivation.). (1990). In W. Terpstra. New York: Free Press. Management (6th ed. A. B. What motivates employees? Workers and supervisors give different answers. F. 28 (1). Smith. (1994). H. (1995). E. (1979).). K.Kovach. P. Personnel Journal. Journal of Extension.