What Can We Do To Motivate Our Employees?

What can we do to motivate our employees?" This is a question I get a lot as a consultant. Managers want to know how to motivate people. How should we respond to this question?  "Thank you."

This question deserves more than a few sentences answer.  I’ve written more than one book on the subject.

Without asking you to buy or read the books, let me give you an executive summary.  The first thing you must do is to discover what is reinforcing to each person.  No two will be exactly the same, so a manager or supervisor must first spent the time to get to know what things are meaningful to each person – the things that they like, value and appreciate.   How do they spend their discretionary time and money.  What are the working to achieve for themselves, friends and family.  What are they things that they would like to see happen daily at work.  What are they working to be able to do long-term and short–term.  Not only those things like house, cars, savings but what are they working to be able to do this weekend, tonight and tomorrow.

The most important is to establish yourself as a positive reinforcer.  You do that by pairing yourself with positive reinforcement.  This is done most of the time by spending time with each person to find out what is important in his/her life.  If the person likes you, a pat on the back is appreciated.  If she doesn’t, it could be a punisher.

Once you know what employees positive reinforcers are, set up opportunities for them to earn them.  You obviously cannot make all of a person’s wants and desires available, but you certainly can show an interest in how the employee is doing in relation to accomplishing them.  Most people like to be appreciated for their accomplishments.  It may be as simple as taking the time for someone to tell you how they accomplished something or it may be just an acknowledgement of extra effort.  Obviously most people like to earn tangible things that cost money, however that is only a small part of what it takes to create a highly motivated workforce.  Social reinforcers should dominate and should be a daily affair.

This is a quick answer but I hope it gives you some ideas for your work. To read in-depth on the subject check out Bringing Out the Best in People and Performance Management.

Read about Discretionary Effort.

Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.