A lot of theories abound about motivating staff but if they are not implemented and done so correctly it would be a waste of time. Unmotivated employees cannot be expected to perform optimally. The responsibility of motivating staff lies with management with the Human Resource Practitioner (HRP) providing training and advice on the matter to managerial staff.
The HRP must not assume or take it for granted that managerial staff is conversant with the manner in which workers should be motivated by virtue of the trade or professional qualifications they possess unless motivation as a course was a component of such qualifications.
The writer defines an employee’s motivation as “An inner feeling of satisfaction with his/her occupation that urges or propels him/her to utilise and focus his/her time on completing tasks directed by supervisor willingly”. This means that an employee does not have to be pleaded with or coerced to carry out a task that he/she is required to perform by his/her supervisor. He/she is satisfied in his/her job and the conditions that relate to it.
William Glueck, in his book “Management” (1977:118) defines motivation as “The inner state that energises, channels and sustains human behaviour”. In this case the behaviour we are interested in is that which drives him/her to act properly for the purpose of meeting his/her organisation’s goals. This definition is in consort with our own.
With the foregoing in mind let us look at what managements can do to motivate workers in practical terms. It is difficult to discuss motivation outside Maslow’s Pyramid on Hierarchy of needs. It contains 5 needs which we shall illustrate hereunder. The pyramid in the view of the writer is a foundation on which any theory or action to motivate employees can be built.
The 5 needs are:
Shelter in which an employee can rest, have water for bathing and to prepare food with is necessary. Few employees can find the resources to shelter themselves without the assistance of their organisation.
It is difficult to motivate an employee whose physiological needs are not satisfied. Hunger as an example makes an employee unhealthy and therefore unproductive. If an employee has not rested at the end of his/her shift because he/she has no shelter to do so, how will supervisors motivate him/her to work when he/she is already dozing whilst attempting to work?
safety and security needs:
Staff should feel that they are in a job that gives them security of tenure and not guessing when their employment will be terminated. Staff are at peace in their job where they are assured of receiving a reasonable pension during retirement.
They are delighted to continue to work satisfactorily where an organisation has instituted sound safety practices that protects them from injuries and health hazards at the workplace.
Employees usually work in teams and if they feel unwanted by members in their team, they will get disillusioned. This can affect their morale thereby becoming unproductive. Management is the one that can create an environment where employees feel part of the working groups and are valued by colleagues in the teams. It is not unheard of for supervisors interfering with team members plans or arrangements causing disillusionment in the teams.
Herzberg in Bates “Personnel Management in Zimbabwe” (1993:16) refers to interpersonal relationships as a hygiene factor and if this is satisfactory it can create happiness among employees on which motivators will be built.
Poor hygiene factors can cause employees to resent their organisation. The writer cannot see how an employee who no longer likes his/her organisation being motivated by his/her supervisors.
Providing work standards that employees can achieve and get recognition for it is fulfilling to them especially if this is accompanied by praise from their superiors. Recognising and praising staff for accomplishing tasks are intrinsic rewards that can motivate workers to continue to work better in the future.
self- actualisation needs
An organisation exists because it has people who work in it to produce its requirements. These employees have different aspirations. Some would like to become chief executive officer whilst others departmental managers to self – actualise as an example. These individual preferences can make it difficult to have a uniform plan for each of the employees to achieve there sought need. This means that the HRP may need to capture individual employees’ self – actualising goals and tailor make programmes to suit each need where this is practical.
An employee who notices that his/her organisation has recognised his/her self – actualising position and has put a plan in action towards this end will no doubt be motivated to perform satisfactorily to reciprocate the gesture extended to him/her.
The reason for bringing up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is to demonstrate that it is a basis on which additional motivators can be built. Now we can add to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs other factors that managements should consider on this matter.
Management must ensure that supervisors are well trained to carry out their duties effectively. They must understand the skills capacity of their subordinates to complete allocated tasks. They must understand that having workers in place without clear instructions on how tasks will be conducted is as good as a hunter going to hunt carrying a gun without bullets in it – it is a waste of time. Such type of supervision cannot motivate subordinates to superior performance. They must ensure that equipment and materials for carrying out the tasks is made available in the right quantities to avoid work stoppages which frustrate workers.
Supervisors should demonstrate empathy and concern to their subordinates in their time of grieving or any other unfortunate circumstances. They must not show favouritism among subordinates on rewards, promotions or training opportunities. Supervisors should not bad mouth their organisation especially within earshot of subordinates as this works against any attempt at motivating them.
Management should provide satisfactory and competitive conditions of service to staff such as on remunerations, health care, canteen facilities, transport to and from home and clear achievable work standards among many others.
The HRP must ensure that there are clear channels which communication is transmitted from top management right to the most junior employee. This should include the ventilating of grievances and complaints which must be concluded as amicable as possible. Grievances that remain unresolved are the best way of demotivating staff.
Management must keep staff informed of its strategies, unfavourable and favourable financial positions, appointments, departures, misadventures or any unforeseen circumstances that will affect its operations. I am sure most of the readers have heard comments from staff such as “our managers tell us nothing” ‘it is not worth remaining in this company – we remain in the dark on operational matters that affect us” “do not ask me, I know nothing” and many similar ones which demonstrate disillusionment with management’s behaviour by workers.
Continuance improvement of skills and learning a new course from time to time is exhilarating to employees and a definite motivator to responsible staff to work harder in the writer’s view. Management should make this possible for willing employees. Managerial employees demonstrate the behaviour of learning from one another, this behaviour then trickles down to lower – level staff as well.
It is important to have a disciplinary system that does not only seem to treat all employees equally but to actually do so. Employees must know that in the event of committing an offence, they will receive the same treatment as any other employee regardless of their position on the hierarchy may have been treated in the past.
We have not exhausted factors of motivating employees as this is a wide subject that we shall return to in the future.
The writer is a Past President of both the Zimbabwe Institute of Management (ZIM) and the Institute of People Management of Zimbabwe (IPMZ). He writes in his personal capacity.
Kingfrey Chizema MIPMZ. Hon FZIM