Each week, in the CBS show Undercover Boss, the head of a major American company goes undercover as a beginning employee and tries a variety of low-level jobs. He (they've all been men so far) sees the good and the bad, learns how hard many people work and hones in on what is working and not working at his company. He then reports back to his board and makes the necessary changes. • Most important, he pays attention to what motivates the "standout" employees he meets. He rewards them with incentives. For some it's a promotion. A few employees want a role as a motivator for other employees. Still others benefit from improved health care or college scholarships. • Here in the real world, especially during this drawn-out recession, it's easy to get bogged down with a "poor me" attitude.
What motivates people?
A recent study by the Kaisen Consulting in the United Kingdom found that achievement, working with others and recognition were the top three motivators in a survey of 250 businesspeople. The study also found that women attached a higher significance to the quality of their working relationships than men (60 percent to 44 percent). Also, despite some traditional thinking, fear is not an effective motivator. It may work in the short-term, but over the long haul, fear makes today's workers resentful, less productive and more willing to leave for a better working culture.
Experts also debunk some other long-held myths. Money isn't always the best motivator, they say. Neither is prestige or the coveted corner office. Instead, they hold that the best motivators give employees a sense that they have a "stake" in how the company's doing. They feel listened to and valued. Well-motivated workers see how their performance is tied to the company's reputation, future and bottom line.
I took my own sampling, asking some business contacts. Here are some responses.
"We're so busy there's never a dull moment. It's hard not to be motivated."
Megan Geosano, a public relations professional at Blast Marketing, Chicago
"Dealing with people motivates me. I motivate and reassure them to take the financial steps necessary to meet their financial goals."
Tish Wold, a certified financial planner at Belleair Wealth Strategies, Belleair Bluffs
Put yourself in the customer's shoes
"It's the pride of accomplishment. When I finish a project and see how happy the customer is, I'm proud. I also know that means a recommendation and more work. We can all use more work right now."
Larry Renda of Air Quality Control Air Conditioning, St. Petersburg
Motivation is personal. Only you can motivate yourself. But self-motivation pays off. Studies show that motivated employees are not only happier at work; they inspire others, improve their company's productivity, and generally receive the promotions and raises.
Marie Stempinski is the founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in marketing, public relations and business and career trends counseling. She also leads workshops. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.