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How to Motivate Employees

June 26, 2013
How to Motivate Employees

According to a recent study from Dale Carnegie Training, the international leader in performance improvement and corporate training, fewer than 25 percent of non-management employees are fully engaged in their current position. For senior management, this means less than a quarter of their staff is fully motivated and therefore highly productive on a day-to-day basis.


As these statistics indicate, there is a great deal of room for improvement in the corporate landscape as it pertains to employee motivation. The problem is, many organizations may not take the time to understand what exactly it takes to get employees fully engaged in their current position.


Understanding Employees


The reality is that each employee will be motivated by something different and therefore require different motivation techniques in order to reach their full potential. As a result, management must understand what makes their employees tick and then institute programs that allow people to connect in this way.


“My personal philosophy is that motivation generally comes from within,” said Carlos Adame, senior human capital partner, United Healthcare, an operating division of UnitedHealth Group, the largest single health carrier in the United States. “You can’t force motivation, because everyone is motivated by different things.  The key to motivating employees then is creating an environment where people feel that they can do their best work.”


The first step in creating this environment is ensuring that the organization hires the right people.


“When we are looking to hire new employees, one of the first things we look for is someone who fits our corporate culture,” said Adame. “If someone comes in and they are excited about the job and are adaptable to the corporate culture, they will have a much better chance of being successful and motivated.”


Ensuring that employee goals are aligned with the corporate vision will also go a long way.


“At United Healthcare, we utilize crystal clear communication and goal alignment to ensure that the goals of each employee are aligned with our corporate vision—from the receptionist to the CEO,” said Adame. “Employees want to know that their work matters. If they can’t figure out how they help to achieve company goals, they won’t be as eager to give it their all.”


Implementing Special Programs

For many employees, this desire to play a role in something greater than themselves reaches beyond the office environment. To that effect, implementing special programs within the organization such as community outreach events can go a long way in improving employee engagement and as a result, motivation.


“When organizations help facilitate community engagement, whether it be by donating time or resources to a worthy cause or giving to those in need, employees tend to have a more positive view of the organization and feel that they are doing good for the community and themselves,” said Adame. “Further, when employees feel that they are engaged in a higher purpose, they tend to be happier and come to work more motivated and ready to do their job well.”


The key is to keep participation in these programs voluntary.


“Participation in these programs really depends on what motivates the employee,” said Adame. “Where one personality may get a lot out of interacting with people outside of work, another may not and that is okay. There is a personal factor here that management must consider. Forcing an introvert to participate in a community outreach project may end up doing more harm than good, and that is not the goal here.”


Instituting a Reward System

Instituting an appropriate reward system will also serve as motivation to employees. This should not be limited to monetary rewards, as not all employees may be motivated by money. In fact, many find recognition amongst their peers to be more rewarding than a monetary bonus.


“I think it is important to recognize people when they do things well,” said Adame. “Doing this on a regular basis will not only serve as a motivator for employees, but it will bring to light any best practices within the organization.”


Avoiding negative reinforcement is also important, as this can destroy both motivation and morale.


“Some managers believe that they can improve performance by publicly reprimanding employees. However, I don’t believe that this has a place in the workplace today,” said Adame. “When correcting employees, management should always be constructive. Telling someone they aren’t meeting your needs and letting them know how they can change to better do so is much different than performance management.”


Improving Relationships


While all of these steps can lead to more motivated and successful employees, perhaps the most important is improving relationships between supervisors and their employees.


“If I had to choose one area for organizations to improve upon, it would be the respect and relationship between the leader and their employees,” said Adame. “If you get that one thing right, you will have solved many motivational issues.”


Improving this relationship does not have to be difficult. In fact, it is often the little things that make the most difference.


“Just saying hello to employees in the morning is huge,” said Adame. “By acknowledging employees and making eye contact with them, you are validating their existence in the organization and this can make a big difference in the perception that employees have of their leader.”


Achieving Company Goals

Together, these improvements in employee morale will lead to a more productive workforce and a more successful organization as a whole.


“If you don’t have an engaged workforce, I would say that it’s almost impossible to achieve company goals,” said Adame. “However, when your business strategy is aligned with your financial strategy, and more importantly your people strategy – that is when a company is poised for success.” 


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About the author

KforceKforce is a professional staffing and solutions firm providing flexible and permanent placement services, as well as outsourcing solutions, in the skill areas of technology, finance & accounting, healthcare and government. Kforce operates in more than 60 offices throughout the United States and one in the Philippines.

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Comments (4) -


Nada United States
7/1/2013 3:53:47 PM #

I feel that if Companies needs to motivate employees constantly my opinion is that employees are simply lazy and they don't have good work ethics.

  When my parents brought us to America and when we got our first job in America we were so happy and worked so hard I did not need Company to motivate me I motivated my self by earning money and save so I can buy things so I don't fall anther Government support.

thomas Jefferson

thomas Jefferson United States
7/2/2013 12:05:15 PM #

How about paying wages that aren't slave wages to begin with!


Jackie United States
7/10/2013 12:01:28 AM #

I think that the point on the employee and supervisor is very important because I was in the same situation.  My supervisor had an attitude and bias against me because I had a Master's degree and she does not.  When I went to ask her questions, there was no eye contact, she would just continue doing her work and I would be standing there to be acknowledged.  


Jackie United States
7/10/2013 12:06:41 AM #

There is also a level of professionalism that I expect from my supervisor, when an employee discuss something with the supervisor, the supervisor is not suppose to repeat it but many times you find out that they do.

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Kforce is a professional staffing and solutions firm providing flexible and permanent placement solutions in the skill areas of technology, finance & accounting and healthcare. Kforce operates in more than 60 offices located throughout the United States and one office in the Philippines.
About this blog
Knowledge Employed is a career advice blog and job tips resource center, created and managed by Kforce’s staffing specialists. Whether you are a professional needing career advice or a hiring authority seeking business guidance, our goal is to provide you with the knowledge and tools.