Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Monday, July 13, 2009

Are your Employees Motivated? - Top 5 Myths

Employee Motivation: Top 5 Myths

While motivating employees is a key factor in an economic recovery, many companies are failing to keep their workers fully engaged in their jobs because they share some common myths and beliefs, according to Suzanne Bates, author of "Motivate Like a CEO: Communicate Your Strategic Vision and Inspire People to Act!" (McGraw-Hill 2009).

Employers must re-examine their beliefs about employee engagement if they hope to accelerate their business recovery and retain their top talent, said Bates, president and CEO of Bates Communications

In a typical workplace, only 29 percent of employees are actively motivated and engaged in their jobs, while 71 percent are unmotivated and disengaged - either not engaged at all (54 percent) or are actively disengaged (17 percent) - according to the Gallup Management Journal’s Employee Engagement Index.

"While there has been a slight uptick in employee motivation in recent surveys, this may be only temporary because it's based on survival. As the pendulum swings back, employers should watch out - because employees will look at their jobs and their companies differently," said Bates.

"The Top 5 Myths about Motivating Employees" are at work even during an economic boom. However, in a serious recession, everything changes, and employers' misperceptions can be damaging. "If employers don't re-examine their human resource practices and beliefs about motivation," said Bates, "they risk damaging morale, losing top talent, and lengthening their recovery time."

The Top 5 myths about motivating employees, according to Bates and "Motivate Like a CEO," are:

Myth #1: Money is the number one way to motivate employees. "Salaries and bonuses have been the staple of motivation. Most companies relied primarily, even completely, on monetary rewards," said Bates. "Money is only one of many factors in motivation. Yet companies have become lazy about motivating people instead of giving them what they really crave, which is recognition, praise, and the opportunity to learn."

Myth #2: If you want to motivate people, don’t let them in on the bad news. "This is a particularly damaging myth. Bad news always gets out to employees. They hate it when you hide bad news; they consider themselves partners in the company, and they long for a chance to contribute and make a difference, especially in tough times," said Bates. "The surest way to motivate people is to empower them even with terrible news, so they can come to terms with reality, think their way through the crisis, and contribute to creative solutions going forward," said Bates.

Myth #3: Most employees know what motivates them. "Many people are searching for a larger purpose, and they are not finding it in their work," said Bates. "In challenging times, employers can become a powerful source of motivation and pride among talented people. In a downturn, leaders must talk to employees and help them discover who they are and what motivates them. Spend time with them; ask them why they enjoy the work, what they enjoy most, how they want to contribute, and where they see themselves in the future," said Bates.

Myth #4: You simply cannot motivate everyone. "This was true in boom times, when organizations were bloated and some people you hired were marginal. Those days are over," said Bates. "Now that companies have downsized and are arguably leaner and meaner with the best talent, this is a damaging assumption. It is a leader’s responsibility to motivate employees. It’s time to stop blaming employees, and start looking to leaders to ignite the spark," said Bates.

Myth #5: People are just grateful to have a job, and this attitude will survive the downturn. "Top talent will always have a place to go, and while they may have had less mobility during the recession, your competitors are already looking around to see who is unhappy and ready to leave," said Bates. "Employers who keep believing their people are just grateful to have a job will be blindsided when their top talent walks out the door because they don’t have leaders who are engaging them, praising them, recognizing them, and giving them opportunities to grow."

Ref: Suzanne Bates

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