Building a Motivated Workforce

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Building a Motivated Workforce

 
New age managers need to pay heed to the important intrinsic and extrinsic factors of workforce motivation for organisational success.
 
 
--BY SAURAV POUDYAL
 
“Motivation” as simple as it may sound is equally complex at its core. Every individual has a unique drive that pushes them to achieve their goal. Goals can be set by individuals in both their personal and professional lives. Personal goals are fuelled by clear vision of the end target and it is imbibed in an individual. For example, you might be motivated by the sense of being healthy and hence you hit the gym regularly or engage in physical activities to attain this goal. Similarly, the goals in a workplace may be defined as targets to be achieved or certain tasks to be completed within a given time frame. These goals are set by the management for an individual. However, the mere numbers and tasks assigned by the management might not be the only goal for an individual in their professional life as they might be aspiring to achieve more than just numbers or tasks. That aspiration can be overall personal development, recognition, and contribution to the entire organisation. Hence, motivation is that key internal drive that encourages an individual to take action towards the goal that they have set for themselves.
 
There are various factors affecting the motivation of an individual in a workplace. As each individual is unique by nature, the factors that get them going is also equally diverse. Every individual has certain activities, personal goals, events or even people that they consider motivating in their life. The motivational factors for any individual can be categorised as intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic factors improve satisfaction levels in employees from their job whereas extrinsic factors encourage them to achieve more. Involvement in decision making, planning and execution that directly affect jobs is an example of intrinsic factors. Similarly, pay, work environment, support from peers, etc. are extrinsic factors affecting motivational levels in employees. Striking the right balance between these two factors may result in optimum motivation in employees, a task that managers should consider as a major factor in people management.
 
The factors that motivate employees to achieve are unique to every individual and these factors constantly evolve with the increasing maturity level of employees. As employees begin to understand what matters to them the most, they finally are able to realise the utmost motivational factor for them in their professional life which might not always be monetary in nature such as compensations, pay and incentives. 
 
For many decades, various leaders and behavioural scientists have studied motivation to determine human behaviour. Among these, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is widely referred to. Propounded by Abraham Maslow, an American Psychologist, in 1943, the theory often depicted as a five-tiered pyramid, reflects the human needs in a hierarchical order. To summarise, the theory sates that human psychology is to move upwards in the pyramid as the lower needs get fulfilled.  The base of the pyramid reflects the basic needs of humans or in other words the physiological needs which are the basic needs for survival such as food, water, clothing, etc. Once these needs are fulfilled, humans tend to move up in the pyramid needing safety and security. Once these needs are also fulfilled, the human nature is to strive for the higher tiers in the pyramid that are love and belongingness, esteem needs and finally the need for self-actualisation. Self-actualisation for employees is realising ultimate motivational factors and the sense that the same is being fulfilled in their role as per their full potential.
 
Although Maslow’s theory directly depicts the overall human psychology and is not merely confined to a work environment, the theory deals with human nature and tendency with regards to human needs, aspirations, motivation and attitude towards their immediate surroundings. Thus, this theory though generic in nature does tend to depict a larger picture of every organisation. Many research studies have concluded that money is not the only motivating factor for an employee and in reality varies from work-life balance, recognition, inclusion, conducive work environment and many more. Thus, considering these various factors, the basics to creating a motivated workforce may be summarised as below.
 
 
Simplification of rules/policies and minimum red taping: Although it is important to have guidelines, rules and policies in a professional work environment, such guidelines should not be overly complex and elaborate. Simple and flexible work guidelines will make the employees feel more comfortable in the workplace. Rather than having generic policies, crisp and to the point policies for specific job roles will create a more professional work environment. Flatter management structure: A management structure with many hierarchical tiers directly hinders faster decision making, fosters redundant bureaucracy, and ultimately contributes to low self-esteem in employees. A flatter structure is more effective in dealing with issues promptly and making decisions efficiently. On the other hand, the flow of information in a flatter structure is faster as compared to a multi levelled hierarchical structure thereby making the trouble shooting exercise more efficient and timely.
 
Empowering the employees: Empowering employees is a very effective way to enhance the motivational level of employees in an organisation. Empowered employees feel less controlled thereby improving their productivity. On the other hand, by empowering their employees, the leaders and managers can invest their time in more productive activities rather than being involved in day to day minor issues. Cut down on policing and avoid micro-management to build a more trustworthy environment: Employees should be allowed to thrive in their roles. Frequent and unnecessary policing and micromanagement not only hinders the personal growth of employees but eventually affects their productivity too. Nourishing a trustworthy environment makes employees feel more comfortable and valued in their roles. Also, this allows the management, leaders and managers to maintain a more holistic view on attaining the overall goal of the organisation.
 
Adopting an inclusive approach: People tend to develop a bond with their organisations when they feel they are valued and wanted. Employers should adopt inclusive approach whereby each individual are welcome to share their ideas and be vocal. Every individual has a unique thought process and they perceive a situation differently from each other. Therefore, rather than forcing down ideas on the workforce, an inclusive approach allows the employees to put forward their views and ideas from their perspective. As they are the ones who ultimately deliver, providing opportunities to the employees to voice their ideas and views will make them feel valued and wanted within the organisation.
 
Having transparent conversations: It is imperative for the employers to clearly set their expectations from individual employees. There cannot be another effective tool than having clear and transparent conversations to ensure that employees are clear about the vision and expectation of the organisation. This is an ongoing activity which helps both the employer and the employee to understand each other’s standings, clear doubts and identify hurdles. Compliment when an employee has performed deservingly: Everyone does their assigned job, but there are a few who outperform and get out of their comfort zone to deliver. Such instances should be immediately complemented by managers and not wait till year end appraisals. This brings about a sense of achievement in the employees. Coaching instead of instructing: Managers should coach rather than instruct their employees on doing their jobs. Coaching brings about the sense of responsibility where employees workout the solutions themselves and learn more in the process. Whereas instructing directs employees to perform a task in a predefined manner, thus instructing might get the job done but will not enhance the skills of employees. Incorporating the culture of bottom to top feedback: In traditional management, feedback is given by managers to their subordinates on their periodic performances. In this approach generally, the manager speaks and the employee listens. However, a more effective approach is to allow the employee to speak on what went wrong and what went right. This way, the employee can self asses their performance and provide feedback to their managers on what can be done better to improve their performance in future.
 
As per Dr Bob Nelson, an expert on employee motivation, performance and engagement, “An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.” Managers should aspire to build meaningful relationships with their employees enabling them to better understand each individual employee. In the course of attaining the organisation’s overall goal, often many managers tend to overlook and miss to understand the importance of motivation in the workplace. Others simply lack the skill to create a conducive work environment where employees feel motivated.
 
Employees of an organisation are the ones who deliver the final results, thus evaluating their contribution in terms of monetary value like pay and incentives might not be enough. A human touch within the organisation can bring about radical transformation towards how employees perform. Understanding each individual employee and help them recognise their ultimate motivational factor and actually help them attain the same is a process which eventually brings out the best in the individual. Needless to mention this realisation will ultimately permeate in their overall productivity.
 
The author is the Head of Bancassurance at Standard Chartered Bank Nepal Limited. The views presented in the article are of the writer himself and do not represent the organisation that he is associated with.
 

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