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From Management’s Point of View ~ What Motivates Employees? ~

January 13, 2023

One of the biggest questions in the context of management, I believe, is how to give employees a sense of purpose and motivation in their work. When I was a young manager, I thought that motivating one’s subordinates was actually pretty simple. Just do what I would have wanted my supervisors to do when I was a new staff member, and everyone would naturally be enthusiastic and excited. But when I got to my late thirties, I realized that there was quite a bit of divergence between what I would have wanted and what other people wanted. This wasn’t a matter of the basis for values being good or bad; just different.

With these things in mind, there was a request from some staff members to have one of our Beer Bash sessions on the theme of “Motivating Your Staff,” and so not long ago, we did just that. One of the great things about our Beer Bash is that it’s not a place for me to get up and instruct, but rather a place for the participants to really think about things and speak from the heart. So in this posting, I’d like to summarize, broadly dividing what people said into three categories.

Desire for Growth

Almost everyone wants to grow and develop. And if people don’t feel as if they are growing, it becomes difficult to sustain a sense of motivation. Staff members shared what it feels like in that moment when they realize that they are growing, and what sort of environment is desirable for growth.

  • Clear Goal-Setting, and Creating a Conducive Environment

    • Our company divides projects into a series of five phases. Phase 1 lays out the project plan and the path to completion, while Phase 5 delivers the project summary. This flow provides a framework for each project that includes goal-setting and the clarification of results. At the same time, rather than having personnel evaluations semi-annually or annually, we do that on a monthly basis. This accelerated cycle allows more timely reflection with supervisors, as well as more rapid improvement. Nevertheless, something that was pointed out was that there are aspects of our company-wide goal-setting with respect to sales and other quantitative guidelines that are unclear, which can make the goals of individual senior staff and managers difficult to grasp. This is something that I now feel we need to work on going forward.

  • Rising to a Challenge

    • By constantly raising our capabilities above the current level, we encourage not only our own growth and development but also that of the clients to whom we are providing services and, in fact, the company as a whole. By entrusting someone with something just a little more difficult than what they were capable of yesterday, we seek to maintain a mindset of ongoing progress. Even if it’s the same task as before, there will always be room for improvement. Showing where that lies can also be said to be the job of a supervisor.

  • Showing How to Learn from Mistakes Rather than Criticizing

    • A first principle is that “work should be completed perfectly.” An attitude that tolerates error will lead to negative indulgence. With that said, when something new is being attempted, however, it is important for supervisors to take an approach that keeps the growth and development of their staff in mind. This means knowing from the outset that they may indeed make mistakes, realizing that more careful review will be necessary, and working together to consider what can be learned from the mistakes that are made and how to prevent them in the first place.

  • Being a Role Model by Setting the Example

    • A supervisor who is good at their job, or even when that is not the case, one who always makes efforts earnestly and genuinely, is an inspiration not just to their staff, but to everyone around them. Before saying something to their staff, supervisors must ask themselves whether they themselves are setting an appropriate example.

Desire for Compensation and Recognition

  • Connecting Growth and Compensation

    • No matter how excellent an environment has been created for the growth and development of the staff, motivation will fade if growth is not connected to compensation. The reason our company seeks to earn a profit is that sufficient compensation can be paid for the accomplishments of our employees. I believe that the strength of a company’s foundation is reflected in the extent to which it can recognize its employees in a manner that they value and reward them with satisfactory evaluation and appropriate compensation.

  • Appreciation for Employees’ Work

    • It’s easy to be thankful for employees who do amazing work. But there are also staff members who work almost invisibly on unglamorous tasks. The attitude required of a supervisor is one that recognizes those unglamorous roles as well, maintaining an air of thankfulness.

Eliminating Factors that Reduce Motivation

  • There are various ways to increase motivation, while it is not necessarily the case that everyone will find their motivation maintained for the same reasons. It would be nearly impossible to satisfy each individual staff member’s particular motivational preferences. However, if there are factors that reduce motivation, taking whatever means available to mitigate them will be more immediately practical than trying to increase motivation. This is an important principle, both for managers and for the company as a whole.

In this post, I have summarized how to make the company environment more desirable based on suggestions from our staff at a recent Beer Bash session. Hopefully, you will find this useful.

I realized once again that not only the company but also I myself as a president have many shortcomings upon which to reflect. Next time I will write about what I believe from the perspective of a president.


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