Highly enthusiastic and motivated employees are more productive, take less time off and are more likely to stay with your company. They are your most powerful source of business support, but only if they are sufficiently engaged.

Employers who genuinely value their employees have few customer complaints, higher quality productivity and revenue and lower worker turnover than those who don’t value their staff, according to Sirota Consulting, experts in attitude research (and whose work includes conducting a survey of 1.2 million employees from 52 mostly Fortune 100 companies).

That survey showed that far from motivating employees, most business owners unwittingly de-motivate them (and have usually done so within six months of the person joining the organisation). They do this by treating employees as if they are as disposable as paper clips. At the first sign that the company needs business support, employees – supposedly a company’s most important asset – become expendable, says David Sirota of Sirota Consulting.

All too often, business owners (or managers) believe certain myths about their employees including:

  • Employees will never be satisfied with their pay
  • Employees object to the large difference between their earnings and those of senior management
  • Complimenting employees on a job well done goes to their heads and increases their demands for more money
  • A lean, mean company is more successful
  • Most employees are lazy and need to be controlled
  • Most employees resist change, whatever it is

Unfortunately, most management policies are not geared towards the 95% of employees who are good workers but to the 5% who are ‘allergic to work’. In many organisations, management generalises the behaviour of the minority to just about every worker which makes the work environment oppressive for everyone and suppresses the natural enthusiasm most people bring to their jobs. Examples of poor management policies include: invoking disciplinary codes for minor offenses, policing 10-minute coffee breaks and generally behaving as though employees have to be made to work. Many managers (or business owners) fail to show appreciation and concern for their employees and the business support they provide.

While many motivational programmes focus on providing incentives (often financial ones), they fail to provide what employees really want:

  • Equity (to be treated fairly)
  • Achievement – to be proud of one’s job and company
  • Camaraderie – to have good productive relationships with fellow employees.

Too many motivational programmes assume that every employee is the same and hope a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will work and lead to an acceptable level of business support. However, individuals at different organisational levels with different earning power may have different motivational levels. What motivates employees at one level of the organisation may not motivate those at another level. While some employees are motivated by financial rewards, others might want recognition, promotion, or to be allowed to work flexible hours. To find out what motivates an employee, the best thing the business owner (or manager) can do is to ask.

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