On Motivation

1.    What do they want now?
2.    Why aren’t they ever satisfied?
3.    Don’t they care about anything except money?

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These questions are heard often enough in industry.   They all – and their many variations – have a common root in the desire to understand what causes people to behave as they do while at work.   They all represent different ways of asking the same timing – what motivates people?

Naturally, this fundamental question stems not from an academic desire to understand the psychology of people at work, but from an urgent need to deal with industrial problems – which tend increasingly to be defined in human terms. Traditional assumptions about what men want from work seem, at best, to have provided temporary solutions, and at worst to have been completely wrong. So, management is having to re-examine its ideas about people at work. Fortunately there is a growing body of knowledge, labelled behavioural science, which is providing useful insights. Because the science is young, and its data probabilistic, management cannot expect to find a single answer to its question, or even a recipe for success. The answer, in the sense of a principle which will invariably apply at all levels and in all situations, will almost certainly never be found. The human animal’s capacity for excepting himself from rules and principles of behaviour defined by other humans is one of his more noteworthy characteristics. The most we can hope for is a fuller understanding of human motivation, a better ability to diagnose and a greater probability that our efforts to motivate will succeed.

Motivation is a generic term which implies three things: need, the object or goal to satisfy that need, and the behaviour required to achieve the goal. In the employment situation, management controls some of the goals (money, security, status, etc.) sought by the employee, and defines the behaviour (in terms of job performance) that is expected of the employee if he is to achieve these goals. But the employee is almost invariably striving for satisfaction of more than one need at a time, and his behaviour is directed to providing maximum possible satisfaction of all his needs. For example, if an employee restricts output, and thereby his take-home pay, it is often because exceeding what his work mates judge to be a fair day’s work could lead to his expulsion from their group – which would thwart his social needs. In effect, the loss of friendship is too high a price to pay for the extra money. So performance is kept at a level which allows him to make as much money as possible without exceeding the norms set by the group. This maximisation process occurs, both consciously and subconsciously, for the whole complex of needs that are inseparable from the individual.
If there is a problem about motivating employees, it is probably for one of three reasons. The reward may not be relevant to the employee’s paramount needs, the reward may not be worth the expected behaviour, or the employee may be expected to behave in ways which prevent the adequate satisfaction of other needs. Thus, in order to motivate a man it is essential to create a situation, or to provide incentives, which will allow him to maximise the satisfaction of, not one or a few, but all of his needs. The first step is obviously to understand the kinds of needs he has.

Probably the most widely accepted theory of human needs is that of Abraham Maslow, who developed a hierarchical structure. Essentially, Maslow says that the human being is not born with a complete set of needs. Like any other animal, man is dominated at birth by the need to survive. He must eat, breathe, drink, rest and defecate. Until these needs are relatively well met, and no longer require all a man’s energies, the second and higher order of needs, the safety needs, assume no importance. Safety needs include security and order in the environment as well as physical safety. The young child who has just learned to speak spends a great deal of his time asking questions (who? what? how? why? when? and where?), in an attempt – not so much to understand as to categorise and give structure to the environment around him. If he is told that the moon is a lump of green cheese hanging in space, that is a sufficient and satisfactory answer for his purposes, and will probably do until he decides to become an astronaut.

Once the child feels safe, and perceives a coherent structure in his environment, the third, and again higher, level of need will begin to preoccupy him. This is the need for love and ‘belongingness’ – for intense and affectionate relationships with other individuals and for membership of groups whose values and attitudes he can share. At first a group of friends or a school, later teams and societies as well, and perhaps ultimately a political party, a church, a union or a company; will help meet this need. Once it is being satisfied the esteem needs begin to emerge and increase the appetite for success and for self Then the individual often gives up the comfortable camouflage of membership; he determines what his own values; attitudes and interests are, and may pursue them even when they bring him into conflict with the group. When survival is assured, when the world begins to ‘make sense’, when love and comradeship have been found; and he is conscious of his own worth, the individual is free to explore his potential and to exercise his capabilities. The need to ‘self-actualise’ is the most mature need of all.. It is this need that gives man his dignity.
Self Actualisation Desire for Self-fulfilment Esteem Need Success, Self-respect Belongingness and Love Needs Affection, Identification Safety Needs Security, Order Physiological Needs Hunger, Thirst

When all of these needs are developed, the hierarchy, as such, breaks down. The needs are simply there, and we spend energy differently from moment to moment in an attempt to satisfy all or any one of them. But the hierarchy nevertheless reasserts itself from time to time, so that the individual will forsake attempts to satisfy higher needs until a lower need is no longer at risk. Thus it would be little use, for example, trying to sell crafts men the merits of a productivity bargain in terms of opportunities for achievement and advancement if, at the same time, it carried with it the threat of redundancy. They would be deaf to management’s arguments and blind to any opportunity for achievement until assured of the security of their jobs. This may seem obvious, but it is alarming how frequently industrial disputes are prolonged and embittered because the two sides are arguing about entirely different need levels.

The most important point, however, is that the normal adult human being is subject to all five levels of need. He cannot leave three at home and take two to work. He goes to work with them all and, given the opportunity, will attempt to satisfy them all either at work or through work. So if a manager wants to motivate his employees, he must be prepared to acknowledge the existence of all five levels.
The best understanding of how these needs operate in a work setting is provided by Frederick Herzberg. His early research attempted to analyse the factors which give rise to satisfying and dissatisfying experiences at work. Analysis of thousands of events, at all levels of the job hierarchy, produced a remarkably consistent and surprising result. Satisfaction and dissatisfaction appear to arise from two quite different roots. We had always assumed, as the semantics of the culture had taught us, that satisfaction and dissatisfaction were opposites – that the presence or absence of any factor was capable of producing the whole range of feelings.

We assumed that if a man was paid more money he would be satisfied, that if he was not he would be dissatisfied. The research results suggested that this is not necessarily so. The upper part of the diagram shows the percentage frequency with which a number of factors (achievement, conditions, salary, etc.) occurred when the satisfactions and dissatisfactions of those taking part in the study were summarised. Two clusters of factors emerged. Those which contributed primarily to job satisfaction were all things inherent in the task itself, they were part of the job content.

The other cluster of factors usually associated with dissatisfaction, were all part of the environment in which the job was done, its context. The lower part shows the same date combined to reveal the relationship of all the content factors and all the context factors to satisfying and dissatisfying events. Thus it appeared that 81% of the satisfying events were related to content factors and only 19% to the context – When it came to the dissatisfying events the inverse was true: 69% were related to job context factors and only 31% to content factors.

It would seem, therefore, that improvement in the job context serves primarily to alleviate continued dissatisfaction and contribute only minimally to job satisfaction. Because context factors are environment and essentially preventative, Herzberg termed them the ‘hygiene’ factors, on the medical analogy. Further research, and indeed the whole history of industrial relations, suggests another interesting characteristic: hygiene factors seem to require replenishment at regular intervals if dissatisfaction is to be allayed continuously. People will continue to demand periodic rises, even though they have not increased their output. We are no more likely to find the wage increment or fringe benefit that will keep employees from feeling a need for more, than we are to find the food which will relieve us of ever having to eat again.

Similarly, content factors play a major role in generating. satisfaction, and when they are present in a job its performance tends to be improved. For this reason Herzberg has called these factors ‘motivators’. In the strictest sense, anything which gives impetus to behaviour is a motivator and a kick up the backside would qualify according to this definition; it would be unlikely though, to meet Herzberg’s additional requirement of increased satisfaction. But management’s use of the term, like Herzberg’s, normally implies an improvement in both attitude and performance.
Putting Herzberg and Maslow together, it is clear that the hygiene factors are the industrial expression of the first three levels of the need hierarchy, and the motivators are the upper two. The real importance of Herzberg’s research is not that it demonstrates the existence of all five levels of need in a work situation, but that it provides insight into how they operate, and where changes have to be made if we are effectively to tap the resources of employees.

Traditional solutions – improving working conditions, increasing financial incentives or providing greater job security – are important if we are to keep employees from being dissatisfied and doing less than a ‘fair day’s work’. But it must be remembered that this is all that they are likely to achieve. To get extra effort and commitment we have to be prepared to consider what people do as well as how we treat them.

In the past, very little formal attention was paid to motivators as a means of influencing employees’ performance and attitudes. This is perhaps because the absence of motivators in a job does not produce complaint – only apathy and lack of interest and initiative. These are all too easily attributable to the ‘personality’ of the employee, and all too frequently result in his being written off as lazy or irresponsible. But it is very difficult to behave responsibly if you do not have any responsibility, or to know the satisfaction of achievement if you are given no opportunity to fail. If managers want more than just a fair day’s work, if they want workers’ commitment, enthusiasm and initial they must be prepared to pass on responsibility, and assume that it will be accepted responsibly.

Seeking to enrich people’s work, to improve job satisfaction by deliberately building into the job greater scope for personal achievement and recognition, and more opportunity for individual advancement, certainly calls for conscious effort. But studies in both the US and the UK have demonstrated that the effort can pay worthwhile dividends. A typical example is illustrated by a study involving sales representatives and carried out in this country.

The company had long held a major share of the domestic market, but its position was increasingly threatened by competition. Its market share had been declining for a number of years, and although the decline had levelled off results remained static and showed no sign of improvement. Examination of the product range suggested that Its products were fully competitive in price and quality; the critical factor appeared to be sales representative effort. An attitude survey suggested that the men were satisfied with their jobs and although they were not paid on a commission basis their conditions of employment were known to compare well with the average for the industry. Since regaining lost ground depended on a sustained extra effort from a group of people already comparatively well treated and reasonably satisfied, it seemed an ideal opportunity to find out if the incentive for the extra effort could be found in the work itself.

A programme of change was designed with the aid of the sales management, using brain-storming techniques, and using Herzberg’s framework as a model. One result of this was that salesmen were no longer required to submit a written report on every call. They were asked simply to pass on information as appropriate, or request action when they thought it was called for. Calling frequencies were no longer determined in conjunction with the are sales manager. This was left entirely to the salesmen themselves, and they kept the only records for purposes such as staff reviews. They were also able to request technical service directly from their technical counterparts – and the paperwork was cleared after the event.

The salesmen were authorised to make settlements up to £100 following complaints about product performance if, in their opinion, there was no possibility that consequential inability would be prejudiced. They were also armed with authority to deal with excess stock held by customers, in whatever way they thought most appropriate, with no upper limit on sales value. They were given price discretion on nearly the whole of the product range – with a lower limit often below any price previously quoted by the company. Each of the changes was designed to make the salesmen’s ‘s job a more complete one. It represented an effort to shift commercial judgement from headquarters to the representative on the spot, to make him someone the customer could really do business with.

To determine the effectiveness of the changes, it was necessary to apply them to only a representative sample of the sales force. This allowed comparison of the sample’s performance with that of a similar group selling the same products to the same trades, who acted as control group. The changes were introduced during December 1967, and the trial period ran from the beginning of January to the end of September 1968. The critical measure of performance was sales turnover checked by gross margin.

During the trial period the experimental group improved its performance by almost 19% a gain of over £12,000 in sales value, while the control group’s sales declined by 5%. The equivalent change for both groups in the previous year had been a decline of 3%. All quotations other than at list price were reported by the representatives and it was possible to analyse the gross margins achieved by both groups. The analysis showed the gross margin on the experimental group’s sales to be proportionately as high, if not higher, than the control group’s. The experimental group had apparently used its price discretion to negotiate greater volume, and had not increased turnover at the expense of profit. A repeat of the attitude survey showed that the experimental group’s satisfaction was significantly greater, in contrast to the control group’s whose attitudes remained largely unchanged.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of the experiment, in the sales manager’s view, was that the salesmen, once they possessed real negotiating authority, began finding that price alone did not make a sale. Having failed on occasion to sell products even at a reduced price, they were forced to re-examine and improve their product understanding and selling strategy. Because this occurred on their own initiative, the satisfaction of succeeding was entirely their own.

Such experiments, with or without controls, may be appropriate to the solution of specific problems. It is more difficult to introduce this kind of change in the company as a whole. Attempts to do so are likely to be as varied as the companies that make them, but one formula being adopted more and more frequently is that of management by objectives. Essentially, the system involves each unit in the company in setting its particular objectives within the boundaries of an overall company objective. When the objectives are agreed the key tasks necessary to their achievement are identified, and departments and individuals set their own performance targets consistent with their key tasks. To describe the approach so simply is, of course, to do it an injustice, because the description cannot convey the underlying philosophy.

Even as described here, Management By Objectives is an excellent communications device for conveying the company’s direction and purpose, and the contribution required from each of its parts. The trouble is that if the philosophy is misunderstood it becomes a device for telling people what they must achieve without regard to circumstances, and thus easily degenerates into management by results.

But applied with an understanding of human needs, including the need to achieve, Management By Objectives is potentially one of the best vehicles for inaugurating the kind of change advocated here. It defines, with the help of the individual himself, what kind of achievement is valued and is possible, and it ensures that both the man and his manager examine the discretion and resources necessary to realise that achievement. Review sessions then become concerned less with abstract human characteristics and personality traits than with providing a constructive feed-back on past performance and a definition of future tasks. Management By Objectives continually requires a manager to deal with a man through the medium of his task, and to ask again and again if it is sufficient for the man and the company.

In the end, top management is only likely to achieve the results it wants from employees if it ensures that all intermediate managers have as full an understanding of human motivation as possible, and possess the discretion and incentive to use that understanding

Marcia Goodridge
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Moving HR Beyond the Corporation

istock_000004482672xsmallOne of the many pleasures I experience when teaching, consulting, or conducting seminars in the Caribbean is meeting the large number of very knowledgeable, talented and dedicated human resources people in the region. These people are passionate professionals who love what they do and use their skills to effectively utilize the region’s human capital within their various organizational settings. The results of their efforts can easily be seen by the many well managed and successful world-class corporations that exist in the region.

However, as I move around in the broader communities of the countries I am visiting, I often experience what I consider to be a major HR disconnect. At some points it seems as though I am in a totally different time and place. The HR efficiency I witnessed in the corporate “enclaves” did not seem to get translated into the “greater” communities.

On returning to the other “side” I often share my experiences with the group I am working with to get a reality check of my observations.  Whenever my observations are confirmed I usually asked the group two questions.  What is creating this situation? What can you do about resolving this situation?

The first question usually elicits a lively debate that clearly demonstrates that the participants have a good grasp of the issues involved in creating the situation. The second question (which I view as the easier of the two) usually transforms a group of highly energetic, skilled and successful people into a more subdued group who admits that there is little they can do to change the situation in question.

Being from the region myself, I fully understand that there are political and other realities that fuel some of this sense of hopelessness. Those things aside, I believe that the HR profession in the Caribbean must play a larger role in the transformation of our various societies and countries. To do this, HR professionals must think beyond their respective organizations and search for ways to transfer and utilize their skills to impact their communities and by extension their countries.

Why do I think that HR professionals rather than some other group should take the lead in this transformation that should take place in our various societies?  This leap I believe is easier for HR to make than for any other group, some of the reasons being that:

1.    HR currently has the necessary skills set and expertise to do so.

2.    Many of the problems that currently plague our communities and countries are human-based problems.

3.    HR is already working on and successfully resolving many of these problems at a micro level in their respective organizations.

4.    The investments that HR make in their communities will eventually benefit and have a positive impact on their various organizations.

I am in no way suggesting that the HR profession acting alone can solve all of the problems in a given community or country. That’s too much of a burden or responsibility to place on any one discipline or group. What I am suggesting is that with HR’s unique set of skills it can effectively take the lead in this transformational initiative. To be successful in this process HR professional must be aware that the following is often required.

1.    Courage – Change often takes courage. Courage to do the right things when there is a great deal of opposition or lack of support.

2.    Communication – Lessons learnt (good or bad) that can assist other groups in the regions. Communicating our ideas to others can minimize or even eliminate the need for other groups to always “reinvent the wheel” and thereby waste precious time and resources.

3.    Collaboration – There is still strength to be found in numbers. When possible find like minded people with whom to associate and share your ideas. Ideally the transformational process should be a high priority of the local HR association. The visibility at this level can lend the necessary credibility and the required resources to the process. Collaboration rather than competition should become the norm. Can I suggest that a good place for you to begin or continue your collaboration is on the excellent platform provided by the CaribHRForum.

Nathan Charles
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Executive Performance Assessments

BusinessmanFor all those performance management specialists out there, what is the most effective prescription to assess, manage and drive the performance of senior company executives?

Like all experts, we start off by saying “it depends”.

Performance assessment systems are usually built around achieving predetermined deliverables ranging from financial to non-financial and also including some discussion and feedback around behavioral competencies. We often overlay this system with various weightings that reflect our company values.

What are your thoughts on a system that only uses a financial concept to determine value add by an Executive without any consideration of behavioral competencies? There seems to be a trend in this direction, but let me qualify that, as it’s a trend only based on observation within my own environment. I am not quite sure if this is a Caribbean thing, or a Capitalistic thing, or if we just following the “God given instructions by a Board of Directors in their infinite wisdom”.

Should this myopic construct gain traction, we will be making a number of assumptions about senior executives and leadership on the whole. One such assumption is that once someone is in a position of executive leadership, there is little or no need to meaningfully or substantively review behaviours that may or may not reflect the company’s core values.

We assume at senior levels, behaviours like shouting at staff among an audience filled space, or asking a direct report to compromise data or not fully disclose data or fudging numbers, or passing the buck, or using confidential information in a reckless manner are not existent or not relevant. There is a plethora of behaviours that can mushroom without some level of applied scrutiny.

We have a generation that is growing at warp speed; they have access to more information in one week than someone had in their whole lifetime back in the 1800’s. Technical competencies are increasingly being conquered at a younger and younger age, but the warp speed growth does not seem to mirror itself as far as the behaviours are concerned. What do we end up with? We have very smart or intelligent individuals without true wisdom or humanity leading our companies, nations and by extension the world.

As our executives quickly rise through the ranks, they may not be humble, mature, and may not play fair and because there is no redress, they do what is necessary to achieve the financial objective and in the eyes of all, they are celebrated as a success. I venture to say that this modus operandi is certainly not sustainable for the organisation or for the individual; as my mother says “the longest rope has an end”.

It is sad but true that people who find themselves in situations like this where negative behaviours seem to bring success, need a failure to re-set reality, and they need to take two steps back to really make one step forward.  They require executive coaching to help them along the leadership path where they can gain and or develop the wisdom, learn the true value of people and the priceless notion of respect and discretionary effort by an engaged workforce.

Ken Blanchard and Marc Muchnick’s book called the “Leadership Pill” talks about integrity, partnership, affirmation and about the perfecting the blend where the highest achievement as a leader is “Winning the Respect and Trust of your Team”. We are all familiar with the sayings “What gets measured gets done” and “what gets rewarded gets done”.

If we are only measuring and rewarding financial or economic value, we actually impede our long term growth. What will we end up with some years from now with a reward and performance assessment system that is not aligned with our core values?

Denise Ali
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