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Myriad ways to motivate employees

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

by Morey Stettner

Flipping through a recent edition of The New York Times, I spotted a full-page ad for Wells Fargo. Titled “The Value of Team Member Recognition,” the ad was a message from the bank’s chief executive.

He castigated the media for portraying “employee recognition” events as costly junkets that waste taxpayer money (because the bank, like many others, accepted billions from the U.S. Treasury). He blamed the media for his decision to cancel “all major annual recognition events” in 2009 and claimed that the company’s annual four-day trips are, for many, “the only time in their lives that [employees] are publicly recognized and thanked for a job well done.”

I understand his desire to defend incentive trips for top performers. I worked for an insurer that dangled all-expense-paid exotic trips for its best salespeople. Employees competed aggressively to qualify, especially because their spouses pressured them (they were allowed to go for free).

But the CEO assumes that spending millions on extravagant annual trips is a crucial, irreplaceable motivational tool for “team members.” (Are “employees” or “workers” such bad words?)

In truth, there are countless ways to motivate. Give staffers bonuses for exceptional results. Ask them to train or tutor their peers. Recognize excellence with paid time off, flex schedules or a nicer office. I’m sure you can add dozens of other techniques.

A leader who argues that eliminating incentive trips cripples his ability to motivate needs to broaden his outlook. People work harder and smarter not just to take a free cruise, but also because they take pride in their jobs and crave other types of gratification. Your job is to discern what matters most to them—and use that to guide your motivational efforts.

Bottom-Line Idea

To evaluate employee performance more accurately, design a weekly grid for each staffer in which you write at least one example of his or her performance. Within a month, you will have a minimum of four concrete, documented observations that you can use to support your performance assessment for each key employee. Knowing that you must make these weekly entries will force you to monitor a worker’s activities and behavior more closely.

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