I just finished re-reading a superb article written by one of my favorite motivational theorists, Frederick Herzberg. It's called One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?
(Harvard Business Review, Reprint R0301F)
For those of you not familiar with his work, Herzberg believed that,
"The opposite of job satisfaction is not job dissatisfaction, but rather, no job satisfaction; and similarly, the opposite of job dissatisfaction is not job satisfaction, but no job dissatisfaction."
According to Herzberg, the things that truly motivate people (things he aptly calls "motivators") are different from the things that eliminate job dissatisfaction (things he calls "hygiene factors").
Examples of hygiene factors are:
- company policy and administration
- quality of supervision
- relationship with supervisor
- work conditions
- relationship with peers
- personal life
- relationship with subordinates
Note that hygiene factors tend to be related to the job context, or environment. And although they can provide bursts of enthusiasm to help employees move forward, movement, according to Herzberg, should not be confused with motivation.
In contrast, motivators tend to be related to job content. Examples include:
- the work itself
- opportunity for advancement
When motivated by the work itself, an employee needs no outside stimulation to work hard - s/he wants to work hard and do well. But, if the work itself doesn't turn a person on, then no amount of hygiene will create motivation.
So how DO you motivate employees?
One way is though Vertical Job Loading. That is, by making the work itself more challenging and meaningful. (I've referred to this in the past in the context of Job Shaping.)
Be forewarned, though. While Vertical Job Loading has been proven to significantly increase true employee motivation and performance over time, the first few weeks of the transition can be tough. You, as the boss, will be challenged to stay the course, even though there will likely be a fairly significant increase in the number of complaints you get, and a temporary reduction in employee job satisfaction as they're asked to do things they don't already know how to do. And front-line supervisors will probably get pretty nervous about their loss of organizational control, too. So you need to be ready to work through all this with your staff.
But, if you do, the upside for you, your direct reports, and their employees can be significant ... and lasting.
I've tried it. And it works. Drop me a line if you'd like to learn more.