Employee Motivation

Sam Bryant
November 3, 2008 — 3,221 views  
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Cash continues to be the most used form of employee motivation while merchandise and travel come in second and third, respectively. It should be asked whether or not these are ordered based on effectiveness in the workplace. Some companies believe whole-heartedly in their incentive programs and other companies do not believe in giving rewards at all. In all probability, the way to motivate an employee is going to be different in each situation and with each employee. But overall, what method of motivation seems to work best?

In every hiring situation both the worker and the employer agree upon a salary for the given job description. It seems as though an employer should not have to give bonuses or prizes in addition to the worker's salary. If the employee does not accomplish the job he was hired to do, he should get fired rather than get threatened with just an absent bonus.

The Library Personnel News journal illustrates an example of an unmotivated worker to show the importance of employee motivation to a company's bottom line. They show that if an employee who makes $25,000 a year wastes one hour a day the company will lose $3,200 of equivalent work time by year's end. It becomes astounding when the figures used come from a salary of $75,000 or when two salaries are added together. Motivating a reference librarian is probably easier than motivating, for example, a grocery store clerk because the person who chose the public sector position will likely be the person who is more motivated to help the public. But beyond being a little extra motivated to help the public, the librarian is human like all other workers, which means that she is not immune to being unmotivated. A discussion on motivation in private sector work environments can be compared quite accurately to motivation in a public library. There are customers (patrons), bosses, and problem-employees at both institutions. Some organizations prefer to motivate with cash. Behlen Manufacturing Co. in Columbus, Nebraska is a medium-sized company with about 1,400 employees. On a monthly basis, the company gives a minimum of $250 to the employee who comes up with the best idea for increasing safety or productivity.

Nucor Corp. in North Carolina is a large company with 8,000 employees. This company uses weekly cash bonuses to motivate its workers. The amount a person gets paid has to do with the amount of output that gets produced by that employee. The employee's base pay can be as low as one-half that of other similar companies but the bonuses can be as high as 200 percent of their hourly wage. He believes that the secret to motivating employees is money. The steel producer generated a record $4.6 billion in revenue last year. This proven system is about giving the responsibility to lower level employees. Senior officers at Nucor earn their income the same as the ground floor workers--they get a lowered base salary and are given bonuses of up to 200 percent based on the company's success. It seems that money is a good form of motivation. Having a portion of the worker's salary dependent upon the amount of production appears to work well for Nucor and would probably motivate workers in other lines of work as well. On the other hand, extra monetary compensation can be pretty costly and people are likely to take it for granted over time.

David Rowley says that many managers are surprised when presented with research indicating that cash is not an employee's number one motivator. Cash does, however, motivate people to take a job and continue to work at that job. As soon as a particular pay level has been attained though, motivation tends to diminish. The author believes that this problem of being unmotivated by cash is becoming worse because of the increasing level of wealth in our society. Since these needs are met immediately after being hired, it is easy to lose motivation when all we are working for is more money. The fourth need on Maslow's Hierarchy is of self-esteem. According to Rowley, this is the need that most managers confuse with pay.

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About the Author

Sam Bryant of www.bonshops.com

Sam Bryant