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Staff inattention can cost

In the first part of a six-part series on staff motivation, Gary Kleyn reports on ways to motivate and invigorate workers.

ONE of the biggest traps a business can fall into is to begin taking its staff for granted.

The result is often lower productivity and, potentially, high staff turnover.

A recent study by the Australian Institute of Management found that the cost of replacing a staff member could be anywhere up to $50,000.

However, despite the costs of having unmotivated staff many human re-source managers remain sceptical about engaging in  textbook techniques fed to them by behavioural scientists or psychologists.

Despite this stance, in order to effectively motivate staff having empathy for what makes people tick and what “buttons to press” are things an effective manager should not ignore.

While for some, reward through monetary means is enough, most have intrinsic physiological needs, as well as the need for security, and a social need such as a sense of belonging.

In addition, theorists argue that the need of  for esteem, respect and recognition from others in the organisation is as important, while for other employees it is the need to grow and use their abilities to the fullest.

While these explain the basic needs of an individual, trying to understand the action employees take to fill these needs is equally important.

One such theory, known as equity theory is based on the phenomenon of social comparison and the idea of fairness in the workplace.

Workers often compare the rewards of others in the workplace with their own in relation to their work output. If the employee thinks they are not being rewarded fairly compared to others the result may be that they work less to restore equity.

Research indicates that people who feel overpaid have been found to increase the quantity or quality of their work, while those who feel underpaid decrease the quantity or quality of their work.

According to Managing Organis-ational Behaviour, published by John Wiley & Sons, the assumption that all employees will view their annual pay rise as fair is incorrect.

“It is not how a manager feels about the allocation of rewards that counts, it is how the individuals receive the reward that counts,” the book says.

In some cases a payrise may be counter productive and may not be the only reason why an individual is motivated to work hard.

“Relationships with co-workers may also be important, and they may be undermined if the individual stands out from the group as a high performer,” the book says.

“The key to motivation is the manager’s ability to create a work setting that positively responds to individual needs and goals.

“Whether or not a work setting provides motivation depends on the availability of rewards. When the individual experiences intrinsic or extrinsic rewards for work performance, motivation will be directly and positively affected.”

The May newsletter from recruitment organisation Beilby advises that intrinsic rewards have a critical role to play in the organisation.

“A growing body of evidence shows that employees react more positively to recognition and praise than to monetary rewards, such as pay rises,” the newsletter says.

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