by Alan Kruglak
Dylan was wrong when he sang "The times, they are
a-changing." They have already changed. Consider employee
motivation. Not too long ago, most corporate managers followed
Theodore Roosevelts dictum: "Walk softly but carry a big
stick." Some companies still practice this outdated philosophy,
thinking that they motivate employees every two weeks with a
paycheck. Other companies, swamped with work, believe that the only
way to motivate employees is by throwing money at the problem. It is
a start, but it does not solve the problem. With an almost
full-employment economy and one of the lowest pools of available
workers since the 1950s, techniques for motivating employees requires
a different approach. A successful program will not only increase
labor productivity, but it will also help retain existing employees
and attract new talent.
products and services, the first step to developing an employee
motivation program is examining their needs. The more your company
meets their needs, the greater the likelihood that you will achieve
increased productivity. Employee needs that are directly related to
pay and fairness.
Money is not the primary motivator for most employees. When it comes
to money, employees want equality within the company and parity in
the market, commensurate with their skills and capabilities. If you
are not paying equally or at market levels, you will demoralize your
employees and push them into looking for greener pastures. As a rule,
pay technicians at the upper end of the wage scale because good ones
are hard to find. If you provide high-quality services, you can
always pass your costs through to your clients.
Many technicians who worked for us lived paycheck to paycheck. Your
employees need to know their jobs are secure. If problems with a
manager or potential financial failure of the company threatens job
security, the results are demoralization, low productivity and a
flight to competitors for safety.
Most technicians will one day grow tired of carrying ladders and will
look for other opportunities with greater financial returns. A key
motivator for employees is being able to see a logical pathway for
advancement within the organization. Even if they do not take
advantage of it, knowing a pathway exists fulfills a desire for
opportunity, giving a sense of security.
Everyone needs new challenges, especially your technical workforce.
Failure to tackle new types of projects and products will dull their
technical skills and have an adverse impact on job satisfaction.
used at my former company include:
rules of measurement.
Everyone, including your technicians, needs measures of success to
guide them. Measurement can take a number of forms, including meeting
or coming in under budget, the number of call-backs, certification
for a higher skill level, promotion or assignment of more complex
projects. Measurement should also be coupled with written goals for
your staff with periodic review and feedback.
Such compliments as "job well done" go a long way.
Remember, criticize behind closed doors; praise in front of others.
Use the free-market system to create incentive programs that reward
employees for work tied directly to your goals. For instance, we
offered our project managers an incentive of 10% for every dollar
they saved on a project. Although that may not sound like much, we
used this program for a large project that had a budget of 60,000
labor hours. By being resourceful, the project manager saved
$330,000. We responded by writing a check for $33,000.
It may be hard to reward employees for a specific project. For
instance, an employee did a good job, but the sales estimate was off,
and the job came in over budget. To reward good, positive behavior,
we issued discretionary bonuses quarterly. The key is being objective
and equitable. If it is treated like a popularity contest, then it
will fail to motivate.
raises with certification and testing.
Technicians continually ask for raises, and the frequency of these
requests has increased proportionately with the decreasing
unemployment rate. Although it is impractical to give raises to all
employees, there is an alternativelink raises to acquiring
specific skill sets or competency levels on specific equipment.
Passing tests makes the technician eligible for a raise and more
responsibility, which, in turn, motivates him to hone his skills and
There are other ways to reward the achievement of company goals. One
highly coveted reward at our company was the issuance of vehicles.
Crews with the best performance records were issued newer vehicles.
Everyone wants to be looked up to by their peers. To gain peer
recognition, awards and plaques were given to the best employee in
each department at our annual Christmas party and events ceremony. To
recognize a project manager, we mounted a poster of a building he was
working on, placing a photograph of the project manager and the
building manager in the lower right-hand corner with their names.
challenge for management in the next decade will be motivating
employees. Without measurable and attainable goals, employees will be
hard pressed to achieve the desired productivity level. Unmotivated,
employees may seek shelter at other companies within or outside the
industry. If you fail to develop a proactive program, you might as
well be blowing in the wind.
owner of GIC, a $20 million security systems integration company with
a 54% gross margin, sold his company to Sensormatic Electronics in
1995. This article is an excerpt from his new book, The Battle for
Higher Gross Margins, The Guide to Increasing Profitability for
Low-Voltage Contractors. For more information, he can be contacted by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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