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What's Your Motivation Trigger?

Most of us understand that when we feel motivated in our job we want to do it well. And there are clearly some businesses that understand this implicitly. Jim Sinegal at Costco appears to be one , while John Lewis looks to be another.

But for every people-focused firm or business leader, there are many others that don't understand the relationship between affecting people's attitudes at work and their performance. The UK government doesn't appear to understand this point.

However you feel about bonuses, the impact of the government restrictions on RBS's bonus-earners will be negative. In an industry where cash bonuses drive motivation more than in any other, and where competition will pay what you won't, curbing bonuses will cause damage. I suspect that CEO Stephen Hester must nervous as he hears of the inevitable exodus of talent from RBS.

Maybe the UK government should have referred to its own report on the impact of ensuring staff remain motivated. It makes the link between effective HR management and individual and corporate performance.

Yet the effects of damaging employee commitment don't seem to trouble enough decision-makers. The HR-performance link is not understood widely enough.

Professor Jaap Paauwe highlighted evidence of this link at a recent King's College London workshop, quoting a study which shows that the creation of a high performing workplace through effective HR management does have a significant impact on tangible items such as return on assets.

Paauwe also sought to unlock some of the secrets of how to motivate staff to perform. But motivation can vary from one business -- and individual -- to the next. For a business leader, where then do you start to build a workplace that can be termed high performing?

There are some common approaches that may be part of your business set-up already, but you may be prioritising the wrong ones:

  • Ensuring employee participation and empowering individuals at work.
  • Training and development of employee skills, even (perhaps particularly) in recession.
  • Providing employment security (healthcare provision or pension, or in terms of employability).
  • Creating the right incentives (performance related pay or promotion opportunities).
  • Information sharing and communication (personal communication between manager and employee).
  • Allowing effective teamwork by creating autonomous teams.
The trick is in understanding which of these factors have the biggest impact in your business. With the government and RBS this week, it was just about dealing with a crucial one -- creating the right incentives. Looks like they failed.

Which motivators most matter to you? And what's the most demotivating thing your business could do?

(photo: graffiti.freiburg, CC2.0)

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