The New Five Truths of Employee Motivation

Marcia Zidle

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Motivation is a term that is so widely used, yet many managers know little about how it really works. But it doesn’t have to be confusing—in fact, it’s quite simple. Treat your employees as valuable assets and you will reap the rewards. Here are five truths to pay attention to in motivating your workforce.

  1. Most managers think money is the top motivator—but, it’s not.

    Sure compensation is important, but most employees consider it a right—an exchange for the work they do. Rather, they want is to be valued for a job well done by those they hold in high esteem. They want to feel what they do make a difference. Money does not do this; personal recognition does.

  2. You get what you reward’ is common sense, but not common practice.

    How many managers consider ‘appreciating others’ to be part of their job responsibility? Not many. They tend to be too busy and too removed from their employees to notice when they have done exceptional work—and to thank them for it. Limited appreciation leads to limited motivation.

  3. What is most motivating to employees tend to be relatively easy to do and cost the least.

    For example, recognize a high performer in the company newsletter or website. Have her manager’s manager call to thank her for a job well done. Leave a voice mail praising. Distribute a praising e-mail to everyone.

  4. What motivates others is often different from what motivates oneself.

    When workers and supervisors were asked to rank a list of motivators from 1 to 10 in order of importance to workers, workers rated ‘appreciation for a job well done" as their top motivator; supervisors ranked it eighth. Employees ranked ‘feeling in on things’ as being #2 in importance; their managers ranked it last at #10. What is one person’s carrot is another’s ‘yucky’ orange vegetable.

  5. Managers don’t tend to focus on employee motivation until it’s lost.

    They are often too busy focusing on what’s urgent and forget about regularly motivating and recognizing employees. They forget about it until morale sinks, employees quit and then management must scramble to figure out what’s going on. At this point, responding to poor morale is much more difficult than doing little things along the way to keep it high.

When economic conditions turn tough or when the heavy work load seems never-ending, leaders tend to forget the “basics”–building commitment and loyalty beyond the paycheck. It’s the small things everyday that can bring down morale and it’s the small things everyday that can raise performance. A holiday party or picnic once or twice a year probably won’t do it. Rather, it’s a leader’s sincere recognition that employees are assets to be valued, not tools to be used up and discarded.

Marcia Zidle, the ‘people smarts’ coach, works with business leaders to quickly solve their people management headaches so they can concentrate on their #1 job ­ to grow and increase profits. She offers free help through Leadership Briefing, a weekly e-newsletter with practical tips on leadership style, employee motivation, recruitment and retention and relationship management. Subscribe by going to and get the bonus report “61 Leadership Time Savers and Life Savers”. Marcia is the author of the What Really Works Handbooks ­ resources for managers on the front line and the Power-by-the-Hour programs ­ fast, convenient, real life, affordable courses for leadership and staff development. She is available for media interviews, conference presentations and panel discussions on the hottest issues affecting the workplace today. Contact Marcia at 800-971-7619.


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