The Supervisor's Motivational Toolkit

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There are seven factors that have a high potential for increasing employee motivation. If a supervisor sets employees up for success and provides feedback so that the employees know when they are successful, that will increase the employees’; confidence in their abilities.

In addition, when a supervisor relates desired job performance to specific employee interests, keeps employee concerns at a reasonable level, and maintains positive feelings in the workplace, that supervisor can help employees view job performance as its own reward rather than as a means to an end.

1. Extrinsic-Intrinsic Motivation

When employees work in order to gain something else, they are operating from an extrinsic motivation. For example, employees may first come to a job simply to get a paycheck (an extrinsic reason).

However, if the employees feel valued, have sufficient challenge, and are successful in the job, they may start to come to work because they feel good about the job itself (an intrinsic reason). Employees have intrinsic motivation when they receive satisfaction from the work itself.

Converting extrinsic employee motivation to intrinsic motivation is the key to creating a self-directed workpiece. In order to accomplish this, a supervisor can employ any of the remaining six motivational factors.

2. Success

Human beings prefer tasks that they can perform successfully, rather than tasks at which they are unsuccessful. Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the quality management guru who is credited for Japan’;s economic recovery after World War II, said that: "85% of an employee’;s ability to perform successfully on the job depends upon the system."

By the system, he meant the company structure, its policies and procedures, its culture, as well as its management style. A supervisor can set employees up to be successful by giving complete instructions, sufficient resources, necessary training, and constructive feedback.

3. Feedback

Employees know if they are performing successfully when they receive feedback. This feedback, which may be oral or written, can come from their supervisor, peers or customers. However, employees can also determine their own success if they have specific, observable and measurable performance standards against which to evaluate their own performance.

Employees need specific feedback about what they are doing well, so that they can continue to repeat that effective performance. Supervisors should also provide a specific constructive feedback that will help employees clearly understand what they need to do to improve their performance, when necessary.

When employees know that they have been successful, based on the feedback that they receive, the result is a boost to their self-confidence.

4. Confidence

Employees are more likely to be confident about achieving success when they believe that success is within their control. A supervisor can set employees up for success by clarifying what performance level is expected, ensuring sufficient training and resources to achieve that performance, and providing ongoing specific and constructive feedback about their performance.

Successful job performance that is validated by feedback will result in increased employee confidence in their ability to perform. Employee confidence can reinforce their potential interest in assuming additional and possibly greater responsibilities.

5. Interest

Employees will be more motivated to perform well if what they are asked to do is directly related to something that interests them. These complying interests and needs will obviously vary, depending on the individual employee. Supervisors who do not already know what interests their employees will have to ask them. Getting increased visibility, input into decision-making, experience necessary for promotion, or the opportunity to help others might be attractive to some employees and not to others.

A supervisor has to be careful not to misunderstood employees ‘;interests in order to avoid unduly raising employees’; concern. For example, some employees may appreciate a more challenging assignment, while other employees may feel anxious and overwhelmed by such an assignment.

6. Concern

Employees need to have a moderate level of concern in order to expend sufficient effort to perform satisfactorily. If they do not care about performing well, their supervisor may need to raise their concern by pointing out the consequences of continued unacceptable performance.

If the employees are highly anxious, due to real or perceived risks involved, they will not be able to perform effectively until the level of concern is reduced. For example, if employees are highly concerned about changes on the job, a supervisor may lower their concern by giving them some control over the change process.

7. Feeling

If employees have a comfortable and supportive work situation, they will be more inclined to put forth effort to perform. For this reason, it is important for a supervisor to create and maintain a work atmosphere where employees feel valued for their abilities, supported in their actions, and respected by their peers.

Employees who have been set up for success, know that they are successful based on the feedback that they received, feel confident in their ability, recognize that their performance satisfies a compelling need, and have an appropriate level of concern, will have a good feeling about their work. All of these factors will increase the probability of intrinsic employee motivation. The performance of the job will be satisfying in itself, rather than as a means to an end.