The Psychology of Employee Motivation

Check our Latest products!


“I wish I could get my employees to (do something, show some initiative, make a decision, etc.)!” Have you ever had this thought? This statement or something quite close, is what I hear so often from business owners. If you would like to do more, with fewer employees, or get more from the persons you currently employ–read on.

If you are short on time, I’ll give you the concept in a nutshell. Similar to Dorothy, in The Wizard Of Oz, she simply had to click her heals and would be back in Kansas. You too, need only to listen to your employees and act on what you hear. Do this and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Yes, listen, your employees will tell you just how to create a climate that will empower them to be much more productive, especially in these uncertain times. This is the platinum rule of employee motivation–it applies universally, regardless of age. To maximize your listening effectiveness, consider the following:

1. Reduce your talking.

2. Measure your listening. There is a reason that two ears and only one mouth are original equipment.

3. Learn to ask discovery questions: Explain to me… Tell me more, why, how… What do you mean by… What is your opinion about?

4. When an employee speaks, deeply listen. The mark of a professional sales person is a closed mouth whenever the prospect speaks. Why? To get information that will assist them in the sale–you too need information.

5. As you carefully listen to what they say, watch their body language for subtle clues to additional meanings.

6. Pre-plan your discussion about incorrect as well as correct performance, always end on a positive. I suggest you become intimately familiar with The One Minute Manager by Blanchard and Johnson.

7. Question what you hear. Be sure to understand what is really being said–use the feedback method. This is where you repeat what you heard or thought you heard and ask if the information is correct.

Do the above and your chances of reducing the employee revolving door syndrome will be greatly increased. As it is important to listen it is equally important to understand how time and experience molds people.

In a previous life, when I was in the sunglass business, I worked for an owner who was motivated only by money and thought everyone else had the same motivation. This simply is not true. Yes, we all need money but there are many more needs that must be met by a job.

Dr. Morris Massey spent nearly 20 years at the University of Colorado as a professor of marketing. He developed a model of human behavior that I believe will shed some light on the subject. His model takes a unique approach to how values, prejudices and ways of reacting to change are “programmed” into persons of different age groups. The population is divided into four groups:

1. THE OLAGERS, the traditionalists, they were raised any time before World War II. They remember the Great Depression and were influenced by the results.

2. THE SCHIZOES, the in-betweeners, they were raised in the 1940s and very early 1950s. They are not quite sure if they are Olagers or Nuagers and it drives them crazy.

3. THE NUAGERS, the rejectionists, (where I and many baby boomers fit) grew up between the mid 1950s and early 1960s.

4. THE SYNTECHS, the synthesizers and technicians, they were raised after 1965.

Let’s look at the Syntechs (today called GenXers & GenYers) because many of today’s entry level workers and lower-level management were raised after 1965. They have grown up hearing one thing from the Olagers, their grandparents and the opposite from the Nuagers, usually their parents. To make matters worse, they get all kinds of mixed messages from the Schizoes. The Syntechs have grown up with technology–my oldest son, for example used a computer before I did and my younger son has always used a computer. They were also raised on the 30 second television commercial solving even the most complex problem quicker than getting the water temperature correct for a shower.

Val Surf & Sport, a small specialty retail chain in the San Fernando Valley (an area in the northwestern most part of Los Angeles County) does their best to give their sports experts time off to enjoy their sport, says Mark Richards, owner. He says that scheduling is a bit tricky at times but believes that’s the price he must pay to cut down on employee turnover. Richards knows the value of slowing down the employee turnstile.

When you go grocery shopping, for example and are impressed by the box person (now called customer service clerks), give them your business card. Tell them that they have just passed their first interview with your company! Everywhere you go, everything you do, look for that quality person. It’s much better than putting a cattle call advertisement in the local paper or waiting for a loser to walk through your door and giving them the job because you’re too lazy to search for the employee you truly want.

Now that you’ve found that ideal person, you must properly train them. You must start training the first day. Gene Geromel, professor of Management of Human Resources at Spring Arbor College says, “The first few days, even hours of one’s work often sets the stage for the employee’s attitude for years to come. When you lay a poor foundation for new employees, you are taking a risk.”

When you consider the time, effort, energy and cost of training an employee, it’s obvious that retaining is preferable to retraining. To keep any employee, especially the younger ones, you must show them that you are concerned about them as an employee and a fellow human being. This takes us back to the listening and acting on what you hear. A quick method to turning off an employee is to frequently ask them what they think and then ignoring what was said!

I believe employee recognitions are quite important. Yet, let me caution you about incentives, spiffs, and commission. Harvey Mackay said in his book, Swim With The Sharks, not to give a turkey at Christmas if you do not intend to continue the practice. I too learned what I call the Donut Lesson. When I sold to retailers, regularly gave product clinics to boost sales. Usually I’d bring donuts along as a peace offering to the employees, as not all were excited about mandatory attendance. Over the years the employees of my retail customers began to expect the donuts and the value to me for bringing them began to diminish. Heaven forbid the few times I didn’t bring my peace offering–it was difficult to keep their attention.

My suggestion based on years of working with business owners and a national survey, which I conducted, is to make the recognitions and/or incentives customized specifically to the employee.

Most of the ideas I’ve shared with you are actually quite simple, you might be thinking, “I could of thought of those ideas,” or you already have. I believe the secret is to move into action on these ideas. While it is not always easy, it is simple. To do these things you must break out of your comfort zone and change your business paradigm. Your new paradigm will be that of a partnering with your employees rather than the old ineffective paradigm of being an authoritarian boss.

Here are some ideas that will assist you in developing your partnering paradigm with your own employees:
o Understand what makes your employees tick.

o Learn what motivates your associates into action.

o Be open to their ideas.

o Allow your employees and yourself to learn and profit from errors.

o Be open in conflict, accept the responsibility that your associates may be correct, may have a better idea and discontinue defending your position when proven wrong. A colleague of mine, Patricia Fripp says it best: “Prove me wrong and I’ll spend no time defending my former position.”

o Accept the fact that teenagers and young adults have trust issues with their seniors.

o Live by the Law of Reality. One receives from the universe in direct proportion to what one gives. Eastern civilizations call it Karma, in the west we refer to the Bible passage, as you sow, so shall you reap.

o Teach your new employees the value, to their life, of learning selling skills. Help them to understand how they will profit through life if they know how to communicate well–after all selling is helping via communicating.

The psychology of employee motivation is simply listening and understanding, I’m pleased that you didn’t simply click your heals as Dorothy in Oz could have and read on for greater understanding. One last thought with which to leave you.

If you drove a 7 Series BMW and pulled into the your local dealership for a tune up or more importantly a major repair and noticed that the mechanic had only a screwdriver and pair of pliers in his or her toolbox, would you stick around? Would you let that mechanic work on your pride and joy? No way! You’d be out of there so quick it would make the mechanic’s head spin.

You and your employees also have toolboxes. Inside, tools of selling and communication, as well as product knowledge may be found. Grow yourself and all those with which you work. Challenge yourself and the persons around you to daily become their best.

One of my favorite quotations that you might want to copy for yourself is: “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo. Hopefully the time has come for you to listen.

write by Cyril / Cyrus


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *