Motivating Employees

By Rich Kramarik


When you think about it, the success of many facets of your business can often be traced back to motivated employees. From productivity and profitability to recruiting and retention, hardworking and happy employees lead to growth and success.

 Unfortunately, motivating people is far from an exact science. There's no secret formula, no set strategy, no check list to fill out. In fact, motivation can be as individual as the personalities of the employees who work for you. One employee may be motivated only by money. Another may appreciate a simple “thank you” for a job well done. Still others may work harder if they have equity in the business.

 We can boil down employee motivation improvement to two basic actions -- finding out what your employees want and finding a way to give it to them or enable them to earn it. The following includes more insight and some interesting and helpful motivational techniques used by successful CEOs.

 One-on-one Approach

As CEO’s, business owners and managers we often make decisions based on what we think (our experience) or feel (our mood).  When we do this with decisions about employees and motivating them, we will most likely be more wrong than right.  Therefore we need to adopt a one-on-one approach to our employee motivation planning and actions.  Picking one plan of attack or approach for all employees simply won’t bring results. 

 The first step on the path to growing employee motivation is finding out what each employee wants or needs and then move on to figuring out how you can get it to them.  Some of the considerations are: 

  • Find out what motivates each employee

  • Find out by asking each employee

  • Find out by asking employee peers what motivates the employee

  • Offer what fits each employee’s wants – the menu approach

  • Give employees the opportunity to earn what they want

  • Be consistent in the value of what is given to each employee

  • Don’t turn what employees earn into entitlements

 What Motivates Employees

As we saw above, each employee has different needs and wants.  Here are some examples of what we have seen. 

  • Provide what the employee considers interesting work

  • Allow employees independence

  • Assign employees to work they are best able to perform

  • Set achievable goals

  • Allow “comp” time – take personal time and make up the missed work later

  • Allow “flex” time – employees set their own start and stop times

  • Be visible to the employees so they feel they can talk to you

  • Allow the employee to test-drive a new role

 In the late 1990s we started to see companies offer employees items or situations that were very creative and out of the ordinary. 

  • Company “recreation” rooms – pool tables, foosball, table tennis, comfortable couches and reading materials - provide opportunity for employee interaction

  • Pet medical insurance

  • Company provided lunch in the lunch room on Fridays or each day – provides opportunity for employee interaction

  • As part of a health maintenance program each employee chooses a company paid birthday gift out of a catalogue of exercise products – bicycles, weight machines, tennis racquets, baseball equipment, etc.

  • No work on Fridays during the summer months – employees work 10 hour days four days a week

  • Company pays employees $100 for cross-country company travel where the employees use their frequent flyer miles

  • Company sends quarterly “care packages” to employees in remote locations – snacks, flowers, books, video games, sports events tickets, theater tickets, etc.

 The most important motivator

Now for the more difficult to understand or believe.  All of us want to do things our way.  We sometimes make unreasonable requests.  We often choose to ignore the rules.  Some of us even blame other people for our mistakes.  Many of us expect company entitlements with out having to earn them.  The question is – is this fair?  The interesting thing is that these attitudes permeate the business environment.  And, when they are allowed to go unchallenged they are attitudes that in fact cause other employee dissatisfaction and demotivation. 

 These attitudes cause employee dissatisfaction because they are not consistently accepted or refuted by management.  So, we contend that the biggest negative impact on employee motivation and morale is a lack of management consistency, inspection/observation, control, and employee accountability. 

CEOs and managers can improve these attitudes and thereby motivate their employees by: 

  • Documenting clear performance expectations

  • Documenting and stating clear objectives

  • Providing training resources and opportunities

  • Publicly recognizing good performance

  • Being visible and accessible to employees – manage by walking around

  • Showing employees they are valued

  • Managing company policy consistently

  • Compensating employees for exceptional performance – bonus, night-on-the-town, weekend trip, etc.

  • Disciplining or removing earned items or situations as a consequence to employees who don’t meet company and job requirements.

 In summary, the CEO and managers can motivate employees by how they set objectives, manage resources and reward success.  Three simple rules for CEOs and managers to follow to motivate employees are: 

  • Know and teach the rules

  • Keep score consistently

  • Share the winnings



Motivating Employees Case Study

 By: Rich Kramarik


At one company we talked to we heard several interesting approaches to motivating employees.  First, they had implemented a social committee that had complete freedom to schedule events.  Here’s a list of some of the events they held:


·         There was a ten week company wide Pictionary competition.  Employees formed teams around department lines and each Wednesday at 3 PM several teams were assembled to “play-off” against each other.  It was a “ladder” play-off ending with the best two teams playing each other in the finals.  The winning team earned a day off with pay for their success.  Competition is good; team spirit and camaraderie were improved.

·         There was a summer afternoon ice cream social.  The company put out big tubs of ice cream of popular flavors and all the fixings to make your favorite ice cream Sunday.  The social started at 3 PM on a Friday and all the employees were excused from work when they had had enough ice cream and social interaction.  It was a great time to share ideas and talk about opportunities.

·         This company’s favorite dress-up social was the Halloween party.  Everyone was expected to show up at work on Halloween dressed in their Halloween costume.  Then at 3 PM in the afternoon there was a costume contest and prizes for the winners in several categories.  There was plenty of finger food and drinks to kick-off the evening of trick-or-treat.  It was an opportunity for employees to laugh at each other and break down barriers that may had formed.

·         At Christmas the employees were encouraged to bring in new gifts for under-privileged families.  The company provided time during business hours and the materials to wrap the gifts.  At the appropriate time groups of employees went together to deliver the gifts to the families.  It provided lifted spirits and raised morale.

·         The CEO was a black belt in Karate and he held work-outs and training for interested employees, at the office, each week.  There were many a smile about the poor performance and then having to go to Karate class with the CEO.

·         The building had shower facilities and there were a couple of sporting groups – a cycling group and a runner group.  These two groups went out for extended lunch hour rides/runs on occasion.  They were healthy employees, full of energy and driving productivity


Then there were a long list of business approaches and employee benefits:


·         There was a “think-tank” conference room for creative thinking.  The room had floor to ceiling white boards on all four walls, so that employees could capture and view all their planning and creative work.  The room even had a supply of “toys” for the “thinkers” to “play” with and keep their hands busy as they thought.  The room had extra sound proofing to keep the loud sounds in or out as required.  The employees felt free to be creative.  They felt that any idea would be greeted with open arms.  Innovation and 14 granted patents were the results.

·         The building and office had electronic card key access so that employees could enter or leave at any time.  This allowed them to work extra hours when they wanted.  It was viewed as an environment of flexibility and a company that cared about the employee needs.

·         The company had a matrix management organization that allowed employees to be assigned to projects based on their skills and desires.  Product developers were temporarily assigned to the sales department.  Product support employees were temporarily assigned to the marketing department.  Training department employees were temporarily assigned to the development department, etc., etc.  No one ever got bored with their job.  The best employee for the task at hand was always assigned to it.  Employees enjoyed their work.  Productivity was great.

·         Everyone in the company was welcome in the CEO’s office.  He made it clear that he wanted to hear the employees’ ideas on how to get the work done better, cheaper, faster.  Every employee felt like a key contributor to the company success.

·         The company always had a stream of candidate new hires because employees were given $1,000 for employees they recommended after the first six months of the new employee’s employment.  Groups of employees who had worked together in other companies became the norm.

·         The company had multiple customer user groups and a Customer Council made up on the CEOs of the top 15 customers.  These groups met on a regular basis and provided the company’s departments the best possible information available to improve products, sales and support.  Employees were expected to participate and use this information.

·         There were formal recognition programs but the recognition that the employees loved the most was a simple program.  Each month every employee was given three poker chips.  If a fellow employee did you a favor or helped you do your job or was otherwise deserving of recognition you would give them one of your poker chips as a thank you.  At the end of the month everyone turned in their poker chips.  The three employees with the most chips each won a night on the town worth $500.  This is what I consider one of the world’s best team building recognition programs.


As the other article in this news letter said, there are not any rules, templates or guidelines to motivating employees.  Our hope is that this list of ideas will help fuel your creativity in discovering what will work best in your business.  These are all real programs that have been used successfully by our clients to motivate employees.


Brought to you by:                                                         [BACK]

            Bob De Contreras                                                  
            Rich Kramarik                                                     


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