Motivating Employees (and Others)

Whether it’s investors, clients, or employees, we all need to motivate others.

Let’s go all old-school on the problem of motivating employees. How about we apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? This table is oriented to employees but applies to a variety of people.

Self-Actualization – curiosity, creativity, challenge Professionally challenging and satisfying work assignments

Work-life balance

Company commitment to employees – investment in them – investment in improvement – investment in facilities – investment in technology

“Time to Think”

Satisfaction with the environment

Advancements from within – promote for the right reasons – career planning

Delegate responsibility, authority, and accountability

Eliminate micro-management

Recognition and rewards

Teamwork – cooperation and collaboration

Strong but sensitive leadership – supportive; provides guidance and direction; listens to employees

Opportunities to build relationships with colleagues

Deals with inter-employee conflict; deals with inter-organization conflict

Respectful behavior – positive feedback – fair discipline

Eliminate favoritism

Communications: top-down; bottom-up; and colleague-to-colleague; listening

Clarity of expectations

Appropriate workload (amount) – Distribution of work tasks

Entire leadership team portrays a positive image of the organization – “advocacy”

Lots of work – “Job security” – Company financial health – planning

Eliminate safety concerns as a priority

Competitive salary and benefits

Employment not directly threatened

Esteem – social status, self-respect
Belongingness and Love – inclusion, acceptance, friendship
Safety – security, stability, protection
Physiological – food, water, air, physical comfort

One of the fundamental concepts of Maslow is that one must meet the needs at the bottom before proceeding upward. So, meet the physiological needs before the safety needs before the belongingness and love needs, etc.

Some leaders think that it’s good to motivate creativity and innovation (Self-Actualization Needs) while constantly threatening people’s employment. Clearly, they want the people at the top of the pyramid but are driving them to the bottom. That will never work.

A good plan for motivating employees is to address the needs at the bottom of the pyramid first. So, a plan might look like:

  1. Pay employees in a competitive manner, commensurate with contributions.
  2. Make sure that they know there’s work to do – today and for the foreseeable future. Teach and inform them about the health of the business.
  3. Keep people informed about and involved in the business.
  4. Let colleagues work together in teams. Help them to do so.
  5. Recognize good work and contributions to the operations and growth of the business.
  6. Give people professionally challenging work and truly empower them to do it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mr. Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.” He is currently an Expert-in-Residence at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator, a volunteer with the Troy Historic Village and Historical Society and a volunteer with the Michigan Floral Association.

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