Employee Motivation

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Employee motivation is the level of energy, commitment, and creativity that a company's workers apply to their jobs. In the increasingly competitive business environment of recent years, finding ways to motivate employees has become a pressing concern for many managers. In fact, a number of different theories and methods of employee motivation have emerged, ranging from monetary incentives to increased involvement and empowerment. Employee motivation can sometimes be particularly problematic for small businesses, where the owner often has spent so many years building a company that he/she finds it difficult to delegate meaningful responsibilities to others. But entrepreneurs should be mindful of such pitfalls, for the effects of low employee motivation on small businesses can be devastating. Some of the problems associated with unmotivated workers include complacency, declining morale, and widespread discouragement. If allowed to continue, these problems can reduce productivity, earnings, and competitiveness in a small business. On the other hand, small businesses can also provide an ideal atmosphere for fostering employee motivation, because employees are able to see the results of their contributions in a more immediate way than in large firms. Besides increasing productivity and competitiveness, a highly motivated work force can allow a small business owner to relinquish day-today, operational control and instead concentrate on long-term strategies to grow the business. Moreover, a business that institutes effective ways—whether tangible (such as a financial bonus) or intangible (say, a plum assignment for an upcoming project)—of rewarding employees for good work can be an invaluable tool in employee retention. People enjoy working, and tend to thrive in organizations that create positive work environments. Additionally, they tend to thrive in environments where they can make a difference, and where most people in the organization are competent and pulling together to move the company forward. Appropriately structured reward and recognition programs are important, but not exclusive, components in this mix. WHAT MOTIVATES?

One approach to employee motivation has been to view "add-ins" to an individual's job as the primary factors in improving performance. Endless mixes of employee benefits—such as health care, life insurance, profit sharing, employee stock ownership plans, exercise facilities, subsidized meal plans, child care availability, company cars, and more—have been used by companies in their efforts to maintain happy employees in the belief that happy employees are motivated employees. Many modern theorists, however, propose that the motivation an employee feels toward his or her job has less to do with material rewards than with the design of the job itself. Studies as far back as 1950 have shown that highly segmented and simplified jobs resulted in lower employee morale and output. Other consequences of low employee motivation include absenteeism and high turnover, both of which are very costly for any company. As a result, "job enlargement" initiatives began to crop up in major companies in the 1950s. There are three basic characteristics of a "motivating" job: 1.It must allow a worker to feel personally responsible for a meaningful portion of the work accomplished. An employee must feel ownership of and connection with the work he or she performs. Even in team situations, a successful effort will foster an awareness in an individual that his or her contributions were important in accomplishing the group's tasks. 2.It must provide outcomes which have intrinsic meaning to the individual. Effective work that does not lead a worker to feel that his or her efforts matter will not be maintained. The outcome of an employee's work must have value to himself or herself and to others in the organization. 3.It must provide the employee with feedback about his or her accomplishments. A constructive, believable...
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