Motivation vs Movement: How to Really Get Your Employees To Work

Get Your Employees To Work

“The opposite of job satisfaction is not job dissatisfaction but, rather, no job satisfaction; and similarly the opposite of job dissatisfaction is not job satisfaction, but no job dissatisfaction.”

–  Frederick Herzberg

or in other words: “Even with food, shelter, and company, people will always be unhappy with #firstworldproblems.”

Get Your Employees To WorkCoordinating a group of people is difficult. This is natural and will be natural until humans figure out a way to share a single brain. (Borg?) But often corporations and managers find that even when they get the infinite details figured of who does what in which manner, employees still won’t work. They aren’t motivated. They don’t want to work.

So we “motivate” them, with threats and cajoles. I’ll fire you if you don’t work. I’ll give you more money, so please work. Corporations see a short-term spike in productivity, but often within a few years (or the same year), the same old problems arise. Workers don’t want to work. Again. Even after all that money.

According to Frederick Herzberg, Father of the Job Enrichment theory, we’re confusing movement with motivation. Yes, the employees are working more. But they aren’t working because they want to; they’re responding to our actions (threats/rewards), or as Herzberg defines it, KIDAs (Kick in the A…). At the end of the day, the managers are the one who are motivated. The workers are just moving.

So how do we “motivate” employees rather than just move them?

  • Accept that money doesn’t fix everything.
    Yes, your employees want money. But they don’t just want money. To repeat the old adage, men are not machines. Just because we’re not hungry, not cold, not poor, does not inherently mean we are happy. (see #firstworldproblems). Giving a pay raise is a short-term solution, a mere carrot to make the horse go an extra mile.
  • Give your employees more freedom and ownership.
    Studies have shown that assuming the worst of your employees tends to, ironically, bring out the worst. Give your employees more ownership; for example, allow established, experienced employees to authorize certain things without supervisor approval. That being said, don’t give more work for the sake of giving work. In Herzberg’s terms: enrich the job, don’t enlarge it. Think of job enrichment in vertical terms, and job enlargement in horizontal terms. Job enrichment should give employees more access to responsibility, rather than just more access to busy work.
  • Humans are inherently creative.
    Encourage employees to give feedback and ideas. Not all solutions are conceived or implemented top-down. In fact, one can argue that those who personally do the work also have the most motivation and experience to conceive of better ways of doing said works. Consider implementing a feedback platform (see IdeaScale): nine out of ten ideas will likely be inefficient or impossible, but there’s always the chance the tenth idea will save millions of dollars and minutes.

Further reading: One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees by Frederick Herzberg