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How can I motivate the people that work for me?

Answered by Debra Thompson, TG & Associates

How can I motivate the people that work for me?

That is a very short and straightforward question. My answer will be straightforward, but not so short, since motivation is the result of doing lots of things right. There are many textbooks on the subject and you can spend a lot of time reading and learning about different techniques. But I think a recent article by R. Brayton Bowen in HR Magazine (March 2004) captured in a summary fashion what it takes to motivate employees. To create a leading-edge company, managers must be ready to adopt a new strategy to satisfy the new age employee based on the five R's: responsibility, respect, relationships, recognition and rewards. Here are the highlights:

  • Responsibility - Define a job that gives the employee responsibilities, not just duties. Employees want to feel that they are adding value. Work with the employees to define or modify their work processes so that responsibility is built in. Talk to them regularly about creating alignment between what they do and where the company is headed. Eliminate unnecessary tasks that add no value. Solicit ideas from the employees on finding better ways to do things and offer them the opportunity to be accountable.

  • Respect - Respect is an outgrowth of trust and cooperation. Pro-people companies build a culture of continuous learning, teamwork and concern for everyone. Use performance reviews to build confidence and competencies. Incorporate career development planning and find ways to help the employees grow. Be open and honest about the status of the company. Provide lots of information and encourage discussion about the goals and strategies of the company. Show that you value the feelings, ideas and actions of your employees. Focus energy on identifying ways for employees to succeed.

  • Relationships - Exercise a strategy of facilitation and education. Focus on creating environments that motivate. Provide coaching, teaching, support and guidance. Above all be authentic, honest and ethical. Build trust. Encourage working together as a team and having fun doing it. Find the barriers to teamwork and eliminate them. Practice management by walking around so that the employees are comfortable with your presence and can be open and honest about their feelings in their work environment.

  • Recognition - Recognition comes in many forms including promotions and public accolades. Credit should be given where it is due. The open and regular expression of the appreciation of their performance goes a long way toward enhancing employee retention and commitment. Create intrinsic rewards such as genuine opportunities to contribute, become more knowledgeable and develop professionally. Invite your personnel to join special projects, lead study teams or develop a new system or process. Reward and encourage their successes in their personal lives as well.

  • Rewards - Rewards should be part of the overall recognition and reward strategy. Set incentives that tie in with the ambitions of the company and are aligned to compensable factors. Bonuses and incentives should be clearly linked to company performance and relative to the employee contribution. Avoid general rewards that do not make the employees feel they really made it happen. Tailor the incentives to the specific contribution, and keep the goals realistic but challenging. While the incentives are tailored to the specific employee's contribution, your incentives strategy should provide a balanced approach that incentivises all of the employees appropriately. Do not play favorites. Make it clear that the employees are making a difference in the company.

In grade school we learned about the three R's; now in our business operations, we need to understand these five R's. It takes a lot of effort by owners and managers to create a motivational atmosphere. And of course, motivation of the staff begins with a motivated owner or manager. That requires a lot of self-motivation in order to set the example.

Good luck,

Debra Thompson is President of TG & Associates, which specializes in staffing solutions for the graphics industries. She is the 2003 Recipient of the PrintImage International Industry Award of Distinction. Visit for more information on her company products and services and free information on the hiring process. TG & Associates can also provide you with support to make your hire successful, or do it for you. Debra can be reached at 877-842-7762 (toll free) or

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