Dr Shainaz Firfiray: How can employers promote employee motivation?

Dr Shainaz Firfiray

Motivating employees is a topic of critical importance to organisations; a motivated workforce is more productive compared to a disengaged group of employees. Meanwhile, a lack of motivation can negatively impact competitiveness, because disengaged employees can transmit skeptical attitudes across an organisation.

There are a few measures organisations can take to promote higher levels of employee motivation.

Firstly, individuals have an innate desire for fairness. Employees compare their inputs, or effort on the job, and outputs, such as pay and rewards, with those of others in the workplace. When there is a perceived imbalance between the efforts and rewards received compared to other colleagues, this will create psychological tension, and will reduce motivation.

The transparency of procedures used to determine rewards, so the courtesy shown during interactions with employees as well as the willingness to share informational resources, also has a significant impact on perceptions of fairness.

Fairness is a significant contributor to employee motivation because it can reduce fears of exploitation, increase psychological safety and build a sense of self-worth among employees.

Visionary leadership is also important. Providing shared organisational goals can enable leaders to re-frame obstacles and threats as challenges and opportunities. This allows employees to transcend the limitations of the situations they face at work.

This approach can encourage employees to be open to new experiences and to perceive work as exciting. It can help employees expand their understanding of their work environment and foster stronger attachment to the organisation’s strategic goals, and thus induce higher levels of motivation.

Lastly, employers should consider opportunities for advancement. Most individuals have an achievement orientation, or a desire to accomplish something challenging. To this end, many employees aspire to occupy positions of higher social power and influence.

Programmes through which employees may develop their skills and prepare to take on greater responsibilities are a sound investment that can not only boost productivity, but also make employees feel that their skills and contributions are valued and hence keep them engaged.

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Grooming employees for higher positions is also a very cost-effective means of preparing an organisation for the future, as it can reduce the costs associated with recruiting and training new employees who are unfamiliar with its culture and values.

Dr Shainaz Firfiray is associate professor, industrial relations research unit, organisation and HRM at the Warwick Business School, the University of Warwick