Q: Mr. Duncan, do you have any suggestions for motivating employees that have low-paying jobs but provide a necessary service?
A: Self (intrinsic) motivation will only last if a person perceives that there is a beneficial relationship between their behavior and their desired outcome. If an employee is only in a low paying job to get income (desired outcome= more money, power, security, etc.), then it will be hard to motivate them or should I say convince them that they are in the best place for them.
In this scenario what you could do is bring in somebody like...let's see...me! (Shameless plug#1) I could get them all fired up but the problem is the motivation won't really last because there still won't be a beneficial relationship between what they want and what they do.
You could give them some type of reward but this will probably still only be a temporary solution. The research of Edward L. Deci,PhD., professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, has shown that rewards (extrinsic motivation) actually undermine self-motivation. In the future you will have to increase the rewards to get the same results.
This is because rewards are often used as means of controlling people. Think about that. Are you going to follow the advice of Dale Carnegie and "show sincere and honest appreciation" or are you just trying to get people to follow your command?
If your employees are there because they like what they do (desired outcome= service or altruism) then it's simply a case of helping them to remember why they do what they do. Their "why" will increase their sense of autonomy, remind them of their values, and rekindle their self-motivation.
In a nut shell, adopt the following twofold temporary solution that will motivate individuals who enjoy their position regardless of the salary and those just working for a paycheck.
- Find a fun and exciting way to remind them that they provide a valuable service.
- Use some type of reward or incentive to increase motivation. Remember the words of Dale Carnegie- "Show sincere and honest appreciation".
Just remember that this is similar to having a flat tire and using a donut to temporarily fix it, eventually the tire needs to be replaced. Ultimately you will have to overcome the challenge that most employers and mangers face- finding the right person for the right job.
One of the biggest problems today is that everywhere you turn the wrong people are working in the wrong careers and jobs. Many companies are combating this problem by using pre-employment assessment tests. So, you may want to consider hiring an expert consultant like...let's see...me! (Shameless plug#2)
A good assessment test that is designed specifically for your situation will help you to place the right employees in the right positions. With the right person in the right position you can spend more time helping people to get better at what they do and less time motivating them to do what they do because they will already have a certain level of self-motivation.
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