The latest research shows that most people are less than half as productive as they can be. So what can be done to improve this staggering statistic?
The debate continues as to whether a person can be motivated by an external force. However, most studies reveal that it is possible to do. Let’s take the “ABC Model” of human behavior as an example. This model suggests that life is a series of antecedents, behaviors and consequences that correspond back and forth among each other.
An antecedent is a trigger or signal that says “do this.” It gets a behavior going the first time.
A behavior is anything people say or do. It is strongly influenced by its consequences. And consequences are what happens to the person as a result of the behavior. They influence whether the person will do the behavior again.
As a company owner, president, chief executive officer, manager or supervisor, you have the ability to manipulate the consequences of your employees, thus resulting in changed behavior. This simple concept is easy, yet we treat the subject of motivation as a complex system.
Let’s use the analogy of a good manager as compared with a coach. Anybody who has ever played on a sports team or been heavily involved in sports has seen the dramatic effect good coaching can have on a team.
Talent levels vary among teams, but overall most professional sports have more than their share of good athletes. An important difference is in the quality of the coaching, which is to say the quality of “people management.”
Invariably in high-level sports, the most successful teams are the ones whose coaches are most skilled in manipulating their people toward the kind of behaviors that win games. Exactly the same principle applies in business and in every other situation where intelligent life forms are involved.
It is important to note here that people don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so. In today’s competitive marketplace, employees have more options than in days past. When the company down the road offers a more appealing work environment, coupled with an exciting benefit package and salary, most employees at least will check it out.
I’m often asked by employees in training programs, “Why should I stay later” or “Why come in early” or do this or that, followed by comments such as, “Nobody ever notices or cares. It doesn’t seem to make a difference. I receive the same pay and evaluation as the next person who’s just getting by.”
These types of comments should be a red flag to a much deeper problem within your place of work. Employees need to see that certain behaviors create certain consequences.
In essence, positive behaviors (e.g. putting in extra hours, being a “team player,” having an upbeat, motivating attitude, coming up with a solution to a problem) should create desirable consequences, such as bonus pay, comp time, free company products and personal notes of thanks. But how many times do efforts such as these go unnoticed?
I receive calls each week from startups business owners who are struggling with incredible rates of turnover and suffering from some devastating residual problems as a result. And my first question is always,”What are you doing to create a motivating environment so your employees want to work for you?”
Then I ask, “What type of incentive programs are you offering your people?” The answer usually is silence, followed by a long, drawn-out explanation of why the company cannot afford to spend money on these trivial things because employees don’t stay long enough to make investing in them worthwhile.
It seems as though we have a few things backward. Maybe if they would take some time and money and really invest in their people, train them well and begin to match positive behaviors with appropriate positive consequences and vice versa, then things just might (I can promise you they will) turn around. Creating an environment that is motivating for your employees may be easier than you think.
Surprisingly, it’s the little things that seem to count the most. In a recent survey of American workers, for instance, 63 percent of the respondents ranked “a pat on the back” as a meaningful incentive. Backing this up is a favorite quote of mine by Mary Kay Ash: “There are two things people want more than sex and money — recognition and praise.”
Regardless of whether you agree with her message or not, the bottom line is that people need to feel valued and appreciated by their companies.
4 Ways to Create a Motivating Work Environment
There are many ways to accomplish this mission, but I will leave you with a simple four step plan for creating an employee incentive program that works.
1. Establish a Supportive Environment for Your Employees
The organizational climate must be one that allows an incentive program to operate. Incentives have to “fit” the structure, strategy, culture and financial resources of the organization.
2. Develop a Plan to Implement the Program Recognizing Individual Differences
People are not all alike, and different people will value different rewards. A variety of appealing incentive programs may have to be developed. In other words, match the motivator in order to get lasting results.
3. Always Make Sure there is a Link Between Performance and Rewards
Employees must see a direct relationship between their efforts and the rewards they receive.
4. Constantly Monitor, Evaluate and Make Changes to the System Based on What Works and What Doesn’t
Conditions in organizations change, and incentives need to be adjusted accordingly. Programs also should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure employees are performing as planned.
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