By Dr. Tony Alessandra, C.P.A.E. and Rick Barrera

What motivates you and your employees? Many employers believe that money is the ost effective motivator. The problem is that this method gets expensive! And it doesn’t work as well as positive, non-monetary motivators. There are other ways to excite many employees even more than money can: recognition, prestige, achievement, sincere appreciation, pride in a job well done, a voice in how the business is run, responsibility, advancement and other participative methods that foster a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.

The other side of the motivational coin is negative motivators that rely on instilling fear or insecurity in the employees. Destructively criticizing, belittling, threatening, embarrassing and baiting the employee all constitute negative motivators. They may ‘move’ an employee to action in the short run, but often have dire long-term effects on employee attitude, motivation, competence and retention.

Positive motivation leads to a more effective group effort and will increase productivity by building that ‘can do’ team feeling. Motivational experts such as Herzberg, Maslow, Vroom and Hersey agree that employees are motivated more effectively for long-term periods when management uses positive versus negative motivators, non-monetary versus monetary motivators and personal managerial power versus position power.

Andrew Carnegie was once asked which element was more important for the success of a business: labor, capital or brains. His reply was a question: “Which leg of a three legged stool is most important?”

These three managerial components set the stage for the appropriate implementation of positive, non-monetary motivators in the workplace.

  1. Hire the best
  2. Train, train, train
  3. Communicate constantly

Hiring the best people
When a football coach is hired to push a losing team to victory, he is often faced with problematical variables. While he may be a fantastic motivator, the existing team management and players might have opposing views of how to win. Often a changing of the guard is in order: out with the old, in with the new. The perceived plodders are replaced with new individuals with philosophies similar to the new coach’s. A great coach accompanied by mediocre team talent does not make a winning team. Back to Carnegie’s analogy, if only one leg of the stool is sturdy, the stool will collapse.

While the focus here is on motivating current employees, it is important to note that starting with the best people makes the job of motivating easier. Hiring the best means you can spend less time handling problems and replacing employees that don’t work out because the hiring decision wasn’t well thought out. This gives you more time to do the real work of motivation: training and communication.

Another cost of a poor recruiting program is that you won’t be able to afford top recruits if you have poor productivity and profits from previous bad hires. The wrong person in the right job simply cannot be motivated for the long term; nor can the right person in the wrong job. It is clear, then, that a solid recruiting program is an essential leg of that three-legged stool.

Train, train, train
It is somewhat amusing to watch companies that have spent large amounts of time and money recruiting and training employees trading those employees like baseball cards. When kids trade sports cards, they hope to get more in return than they gave up in the trade. What they usually find is that what they get is neither better nor worse, just different. So it is with employees. When companies trade employees, they find that they’ve traded one set of problems and talents for another. There is no such thing as the perfect employee, but there are perfectly trainable employees. Ben Franklin said an investment in education pays the best dividends and it is still true today. The return on your training dollar can be significant if the training is appropriate, adequate and properly done.

Appropriate training refers to teaching people the right skills for the job they will do. Most companies do a fairly good job with the technical skills, but they forget the people skills and self-management skills that would complete the training triangle. Each job requires a slightly different mix of those three skills – but every job requires all three.

People skills include the communication skills of listening, questioning (interviewing), feedback and other interpersonal skills. Self-management skills include goal-setting, time management, organization, stress management and other self-directional skills.

Adequate training means constant training. Good people cannot be over trained. Once they’ve mastered their job, keep them motivated and growing by cross training. Employees will be more valuable to the company and feel better about themselves. Cross training will keep them from getting bored with the daily repetition and will challenge them to grow and expand their skills. They will have a more holistic view of the company, its functions and its people which will increase their capacity for creativity. When these employees are promoted, they will be better managers because of their higher skill levels and broader view of the company. Managers set an expectation for constant growth through cross training, and encourage employees to explore the unknown. When market conditions change, cross trainers have more options for shifting staff around because of better competence levels in several different areas.

In addition, the opportunities for vertical training to strengthen the organization and motivate employees are often under-utilized. The most common form of vertical training is delegation, where a manager shares some of his/her responsibilities with subordinates. While this is a very effective method of motivating, it should be taken even further. For example, allow a subordinate to actually do your job for a week or a month to get a real feeling for the kinds of decisions you make and the ramifications those decisions have. You might be surprised by some of the creative solutions they come up with! Some companies periodically rotate subordinates through the bosses’ job to keep both sides sharper. Often, the boss will trade jobs with a subordinate.

Another vertical training opportunity that is often missed is letting an employee work for a while on a job that is ‘lower’ than their own. For instance, a salesperson might work in order entry or order fulfillment (in the warehouse); an accountant could work on the assembly line or drive a truck for a time. The advantages for team building and motivating can be surprising. Employees will usually jump at the opportunity to temporarily ‘trade’ spots if they know that their old job will be there when they come back. Sometimes it’s even possible to keep them in their current job full time and have them take on the other position for only one day a week.

Proper training means bite-sized training with one level of expertise building upon another. The four stages of bite-sized training are:

  1. Ignorance

The employee doesn’t know how to do a task – or even what the task is.

  1. Awareness

The employee still cannot do the task, but now knows what is expected of him.

  1. Practice

The employee makes many mistakes striving to master the details of the task.

  1. Knowledge

The employee has perfected his performance so that it becomes habitual.

After the employee passes through all four stages of learning a given task, then and only then is he ready for the introduction of another task, bite-sized and easier to digest. The training leg of the motivational stool is critical because competence creates confidence. Managers/owners can play a key role here by letting the employees know they have done a good job. Confidence is an internal motivator. Competence also lowers stress levels and that translates into higher productivity and creativity as well as improved attitude.

Communicate constantly
Nothing demotivates employees faster than a feeling of being ignored. If they feel that no one cares about them or their contribution to the company, they will shut down and do just enough to get by. But if their opinions are sought, they will work enthusiastically to improve productivity and to show that their ideas can work. Team feeling – that important esprit d’corps – will rise and management will have a better handle on attitudes, motivations and situations, a better position in which to head off possible problems and conflicts and to avoid costly downtime. It is also a better position from which to access training opportunities as previously discussed.

Constant communication can take many forms. They can include the following.

  • Performance appraisals: Most managers view performance appraisals as a ‘have to’ project rather than as a positive opportunity to review training needs and to set mutual goals for future performance. Appraisals can focus on a day-by-day, minute-by-minute feedback on performance, aimed at motivation. Strokes for positive behavior and training for negative behavior is the rule here.
  • Questioning/feedback: Ask your employees their opinions on management policy, customer procedures, suppliers, systems and anything else that might improve productivity or morale. Take the time to talk to them about life outside of work as well as their personal philosophies and ideas.
  • Future projections: Tell employees what you see for the near and distant future of the company. Talk about new markets and product being considered, changes in personal or procedures, new equipment purchases, etc. It is difficult – if not impossible – to over-inform an employee.
  • Listening: When employees speak, pay attention. One idea could be the ticket to the company’s whole future.
  • Listen between the lines: Look for changes in body language, speech patterns and habits. These can be valuable clues for tuning into the real message.
  • Open door policy: Many ideas have been lost because the process for getting them to the right person was cumbersome. Good ideas should be able to get through immediately. Clear the roadblocks and let employees know you want their suggestions. Then reward them for the ones that are used. Rewards should be given according to the value of the idea.
  • Work Improvement Meetings (WIM): Send your employees to breakfast or lunch- with two catches: they discuss ways to improve productivity and you pay for the meal. This often works well when you can mix people from different work teams, departments, or divisions to get fresh input from those who aren’t mired in detail.
  • Starting over: rehire your employees every six months

Your organization is in a constant state of flux. The company, people, work environment and jobs change. We are not suggesting that you go through the whole recruiting process again, but that you simulate one portion of it: the career interview. This is a semi-formal meeting where you sit with one employee at a time and just ‘shoot the breeze’. The goal is to get to know the employees just a little bit better. Learn about his/her goals and expectations. Ask about family, personal and career goals. Ask them how they feel they fit into the company and how well the company meets their needs. Discuss the work itself and whether it’s stimulating, challenging and worthwhile. Then ask anything else you can think of, or discuss whatever they want to talk about. You’ll both feel better about yourselves, your careers and your company when you’ve had a good career interview.

As a manager, it’s your job to respond to those needs and feelings expressed in that interview. Do your best to meet those needs and you’ll have a motivated team that wants to excel.

You can make a significant impact on employee morale and productivity by positively motivating them to do their best. Discover what excites them. Create the proper environment to facilitate the power of positive, non-monetary motivators. After you’ve hired the best talent, utilize in-depth cross- and vertical- training to maximize individual growth and motivation. Communicate constantly through the use of appraisals, questions, feedback, projections, listening, listening between the lines, having an open door policy, holding WIMs and conducting annual career interviews. As you and your employees share these experiences, all will better understand the occasional bad times. The good times, on the other hand, may even surpass your expectations.

About the authors
Rick Barrera is a nationally acclaimed speaker, marketing consultant and author known throughout the Fortune 500 for his extraordinary speaking ability and his unique approach to brand building. In his bestselling book, Overpromise and Overdeliver: Secrets of Unshakable Customer Loyalty (Penguin Putnam) Barrera shows how an increasing number of cutting-edge firms are building breakthrough brands in record time. Je pffers [pwerfi; amd easy-to-apply lessons not only for senior managers but also for individuals at any level: for anyone who wants to create unshakable loyalty. Contact Barrera through the Speakers Office, Inc., 5927 Balfour Court, Suite 103, Carlsbad, CA 92008; telephone 760/603-8110; fax 760/603-8010; website, email [email protected]

Dr. Tony Alessandra, C.P.A.E. has authored 15 books, recorded over 50 audio and video programs and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976. If you would like more information about Dr. Alessandra’s products and programs, call his office at 1-800-222-4383, e-mail him at [email protected], or visit his website at .


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