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How do you motivate your employees?

As a small-business owner, that is a question that I am constantly asking myself. To answer the question, I feel that it is important to distinguish between treating employees well and motivating them.Treating employees well does not motivate people to work. As an employer, I feel that I am obligated to treat people well. That includes treating them fairly, giving them equitable wages and good working conditions.

These things people deserve; they shouldn't be held over workers' heads as rewards for a fair day's work. It is all too common today to substitute these factors for those that actually contribute to true motivation.

One of the first things to remember when dealing with motivation is that it is impossible to motivate someone who doesn't have the skills to do the job. Therefore it is imperative to have competent people and good training.

Next, it is useful to think of motivation as a completely different dynamic than treating people well, which is actually helping them avoid pain and unpleasantness. Motivation's underlying principle is psychological growth.

Its key point is summed up best by Dr. Frederick Hertzberg, distinguished professor of management at the University of Utah, who said, "You cannot motivate someone to do a good job unless he/she has a good job to do." This, I feel, is the solution to motivating employees - give them a good job. A good job motivates because it gives people satisfaction through:

* Growth (most important)

* Advancement

* Responsibility

* Recognition for achievement

* Achievement

* The job itself

These are the factors that lead to real, long-term motivation. It is, however, apparent that "advancement" and "recognition for achievement" are dependent upon management. It is important for managers to understand that recognition means more than saying an occasional "good job."

It entails truly recognizing the worth of an employee's contribution by giving that employee more responsibility or a chance at advancement. With advancement and responsibility, most likely, comes a pay increase, not directly because of the achievement, but for reasons of equity.

Tying pay directly to performance can be a short-term motivator, but due to the nature of money, it rarely lasts. (I get a raise, but in six months I feel I need another raise).

So I need to give my employees good jobs. How do I do that? There are four key ingredients to a good job (often used with the phrase "job enrichment"):

* Self-scheduling

* Control of resources

* Authority to communicate

* Accountability

Once I have employees who are well trained and employees whom I trust, these elements can be incorporated into the jobs.

First, as much as possible, I give employees the ability to get the work done whenever they want. This means scheduling different projects when it fits in with their schedules best and allowing them to work the hours they prefer working. There are, of course, situations where I am under extreme time pressures and I have to have everyone working all hours. I try to keep these times to a minimum.

Next, I give employees control over the resources they use. If we are short some materials, my employees have authority to obtain those supplies without consulting me. Of course, if the amount is over a preset amount, I am consulted. The employees also control the equipment. If a tool breaks, they, not I, are responsible (not financially) for the replacement or repair of that tool.

Many of my employees are given the power to communicate to suppliers and customers without advising me. If a load of poor quality lumber is delivered, the employees using that lumber are expected to fix the problem. When customers have questions, employees are encouraged to answer those questions if they are able.

As my employees exercise more and more responsibility and control over their jobs, they also gain more accountability. This, I believe, instills a greater sense of pride in their work and, equally important, gives them a greater sense of satisfaction with their jobs. Of course, since I'm not having to constantly check everything, I have more time to water ski.