Motivating loyal workers is big part of being boss


January 23, 1994|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

From a buzzword in the '80s, "productivity" has become a practical goal for all American businesses in the '90s, and when it comes to increasing productivity, the ability to motivate one's employees is absolutely essential.

In her book, "Egos & Eggshells" (Stanton & Harper Books; $20), Margot Robinson tells managers: "Your ability to accomplish your goals and the company's objectives is directly connected to your ability to inspire your employees to perform at maximum capacity. . . . If you want to motivate your employees, give them what they want from their jobs."

The trouble is that a great many managers apparently don't know what their employees want. In a recent survey, thousands of workers were asked to rank 10 items relating to job satisfaction in their order of importance, while supervisors were asked to rank the same items as they thought employees would.

While employees gave "recognition for good work" first place on their list, supervisors thought this would be their eighth priority. While employees ranked "a feeling of being in on things" second on their list, supervisors put this item last.

While workers placed "understanding and help with personal problems" in eighth place on their list, supervisors believed this would be employees' third highest priority.

Perhaps most telling of all, while managers believed "good wages" would be workers' top priority, it came in fifth on their list.

If you're a supervisor, here are six things you can be sure your employees need from you if they're going to work at their most productive best:

* Leadership. Your workers must believe in your professional competence and your personal integrity, or they'll never give you the hard work and dedication needed for a high level of productivity.

* Your respect and loyalty. Employees respect -- and work harder for -- bosses who respect them. Employees are loyal to bosses -- and work harder for them -- when they believe those bosses will represent their interests and point of view to others in the company.

* A chance to be heard. Allow time every week just to listen to your employees. Whether you do this on a formal or informal basis, what's crucial is that you make it clear that what they have to say is of real value to you and the company. They need to know their suggestions and ideas are not only welcome, but are also given careful consideration. One of employees' major gripes, writes Ms. Robinson, is that they often feel as if their bosses look on them as faceless, nameless pieces of equipment, interchangeable and easily replaced.

* Encouragement for independent thinking. If you want to inspire employees to give their "all," regularly ask for their input about improving working conditions and productivity, and for getting routine work done more efficiently.

* Challenging work. Build as much variety as you can into each job, even the dead-end ones. One way to accomplish this is to cross-train workers so that each is qualified to handle a variety of tasks and responsibilities. Another is to provide incentives for workers who complete courses or training programs in order to upgrade their skills, then to promote them whenever possible.

* An understanding of the Big Picture. Your employees need to know how the company operates as a whole, and how their work makes a difference -- something Japanese supervisors and business owners have recognized for years.

Give your employees regular opportunities to associate with workers in other areas of the company. Also keep them up to date about what's going on with both your company and the industry in which they work, especially during these anxiety-producing economic times.

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