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There are employee engagement and motivation programs from ABC Analysis to Zero Defects, and many work well at least for a time.

My experience tells me that any program can really succeed only if it supports an otherwise sound management structure, with good products and quality and customer support; with decent forecasts and good controls, equipment and overhead structure; with modern technology, standardized and documented processes, and good materials scheduling.

In such a context perhaps any motivation will work well. Or perhaps in such a context one does not need a formal program. But employee motivation is pretty complex. This article outlines classic ideas, and insights into today.

The comments on classic motivation refer to three well known sources, and two sources I have just read.

1. Abraham Maslow, in his Hierarchy of Needs theory, explained the five needs as: physiological; safety and like to think most U. S. workers have satisfied the first two needs and so their needs are somewhere in the third, fourth and fifth levels.

I personally think Mr. Maslow is correct in all levels of human motivation, and his ideas should be considered to apply not just to individuals but also to international dealing between have and have-not nations, for instance.

In the modern workplace, perhaps we assume that employees are further up on the hierarchy than they really are, especially in difficult economic times. If a worker perceives that his job is threatened, that is a level one issue because his very survival is at stake. Are you motivating a person to keep his job or to perform better? A different motivation will be effective in each case. A client a few years ago was a unionized textile company in Rhode Island. Sounds like three strikes, right? But both company and employees realized that the existence of everyone was at stake, and with active cooperation were making a success of what they ould do, seeking out the niches they could fill, and meeting the orders with quality work, on time.

2. Frederick Herzberg in the Harvard Business Review, January-February I968 wrote "One more time: How do you otivate employees?"

He identifies job dissatisfiers as separate from job satisfiers, and rated achievement, ecognition, work itself, and responsibility as the most significant satisfiers. Pay was recognized by Mr. Herzberg as a corrector of dissatisfaction; more pay would bring an employee back up to even, but did not cross into satisfaction.

I am in solid agreement with Mr. Herzberg on his views except for pay, in which case I am more inclined to agree with ames Lincoln.

3. James Lincoln founded Lincoln Electric of Cleveland which from the 1930's until recently was generally egarded as the most productive company in the world. Mr. Lincoln promised that no one would lose their job because of productivity improvement, and the company routinely paid annual bonuses to all levels greater than the already generous base wage. Not coincidentally Lincoln quality led the industry.

When I called Lincoln Electric years ago to ask about their plan, I was told that hundreds of companies inquired, but that to their knowledge none, zero, had emulated the "no lay-off policy", and very few offered such substantial bonuses. The company I was employed by was dumbfounded by both those ideas. Needless to say, no company achieved the Lincoln level of productivity of those years.

4. Just recently I have read two more sources, one scholastic and one more practical.
You might want to look at a paper published in 2003, "Evolution of human motivation theories: An examination of human motivation theories in the twentieth century" by Kenneth S. Rhee and Tracey Honeycutt Sigler, Department of Management & Marketing, Northern Kentucky University at It mentions all the sources I know and many others, from Frederick Taylor on, and the phase of the evolution they came from or caused.

See also the book "1001 ways to energize employees" by Bob Nelson, Workman Publishing, New York, which is a summary of practical applications that companies have implemented. Mr. Nelson has published many other books.

So, somewhere in this lies truth. Maybe the boss should just pass out coffee and doughnuts, because I have seen that as ery motivational. After all, that is Maslovian and Herzbergian, and occurs many times in "1001 ways".

5. For the economic situation arising today, do these classic answers apply? And did these motivations cause the ctions that precipitated the mess we are in?

The Maslow Hierarchy of Needs theory is dominant today in the minds and actions of most people and companies, it seems to me. People and companies have quickly jumped to safety and security levels from the warm and cozy levels of belongingness, esteem, reputation and self-actualization. Even if they are actually safe and secure, companies and people act, intelligently, as if they are threatened. And of course many in fact are threatened. The U. S. auto companies for instance have abandoned the need for esteem and reputation that they so carefully cherished a few short months ago. It seems pretty logical for a company to act to protect its own safety and security, and to recognize that their employees desire the same protections.

There is nothing obvious in motivation theory to have caused the economic failures of this century; greed and hubris don't appear in the theory. Safety and security depend on good management and perhaps that has been overlooked in the race for continual short term profits and growth.

6.Motivation nay not be enough. Good tools are necessary. The link to the left. Management Article Index, will take you to subjects that I am familiar with.

Thanks for the time, I hope the article was useful. JPR welcomes the opportunity to discuss your particular application.

Jack Greene, Jackson Productivity Research Inc.

What's Next?

You have searched the web to understand how the principals of motivation can benefit your organization, but maybe don't know quite how to proceed. I'll be glad to share what I know about the subject, and will welcome your call or email. Tell me as much as you'd like, confidentially, about your organization's situation and objectives, timetable and budget, and I'll describe some practical actions to accomplish your scope. You will have a better understanding of the options.


There's no cost or obligation to contact Jack Greene at 843-422-1298