Myths & truths about motivating employees

Recently, I gave a short presentation on motivating employees to our Vietnam leadership team. As part of a global organization at SDL, motivating employees principles need to stand up against cultural differences between each office.

First of all, most organization hire managers based upon their domain expertise and not for their people skills. There is too much emphasis on IQ rather than EQ. It’s important that both more considered carefully. The line of questioning should be thorough in both regards in evaluating a potential manager.

There are a few myths of motivating employees (according to the blog, Managing Information for Innovation).

  • I can motivate people: Motivation starts from yourself. You can set an environment which can motivate people. The key is knowing how to set up the environment for each of your employee.
  • Money is a good motivator: Rewards do not motivate people much. Rewarding someone would obviously make employees self-interested, and not always for the benefit of the whole organization.
  • I know what motivates me, so I know what motivates my employees: Not really. Different people are motivated by different things.
  • Increased job satisfaction = Increased job performance: Managers feel that if my employees are satisfied with their jobs, they are performing well. This might not be true. Because, someone satisfied with his job might just be performing at the same level from past few years. Is he motivated? Definitely not!
  • Employee motivation is science/art: This topic is arguable. Is it an art or science? My perspective on this is it’s an art as well as science, just like management. There are simple principles of motivation that can be followed, simple myths that can be avoided and requires critical thinking and innovative motivation ideas for employee motivation.
  • Fear is a motivator: Fear is a great motivator — for a very short time. That’s why a lot of yelling from the boss won’t seem to “light a spark under employees” for a very long time.

Keeping these myths in mind, here are some principles of motivating employees:

  • Align the organizational goals with employee goals
  • Motivate each employee individually
  • Show that you value individual contributions
  • Involve them in important decisions. Ask for input.
  • Give employees interesting new challenges

And here are factors that motivate people:

  • Recognition
  • New Challenges
  • Opportunities to meet new people
  • Feeling involved
  • Status — new title or privileges
  • A chance to learn or develop new skills
  • Clear goals: A chance to achieve tangible goals
  • Autonomy. Being given extra responsibilities
  • Inspirational appeals. Emotionally expressed vision