Foster Success for People: Two Musts for Employee Motivation and Positive Morale

Motivation Success

Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty Images

Tired of hearing that people are your most important resource? That's fair. These buzz words have been overused and abused in the board room, in speeches to employees and in business books. People have heard these words so often, in situations where actions degrade their meaning, they have grown cynical.

To battle the cynicism, I propose a better statement of belief. People are your only resource. If you get this, you will create a work environment that foster their ability to increase productivity, build up high self-esteem, and develop new skills and capabilities.

To reinforce this growth, you will reward them and recognize them for their contributions. Love them and help them grow or lose them to an employer who will.

In an earlier article, Set Them Free: Two Musts for Motivation, I discussed two criteria that create a motivating work environment: employee involvement and managing the workplace with as few policies and rules as possible for workplace order. Two more musts for motivation are:

  • a work place in which the high self-esteem of each employee is fostered and
  • the opportunity for people to fully develop their abilities and knowledge in their areas of interest.


People who have high self-esteem are more likely to continuously improve the work environment. They are willing to take intelligent risks because they have confidence in their ideas and competence.

They work willingly on teams because they are confident about their ability to contribute.

Nathaniel Branden, author of The Psychology of Self-Esteem and Self-Esteem@Work, says, “Self-esteem has two essential components:

  • Self-efficacy: Confidence in the ability to cope with life's challenges. Self-efficacy leads to a sense of control over one's life.
  • Self-respect: Experience oneself as deserving of happiness, achievement and love. Self-respect makes possible a sense of community with others.

    Self-esteem is a self-reinforcing characteristic. When we have confidence in our ability to think and act effectively, we can persevere when faced with difficult challenges. Result: We succeed more often than we fail. We form more nourishing relationships. We expect more of life and of ourselves."

    A motivating work environment enhances staff self-esteem. People feel like they are more, not less--more competent, more capable, more appreciated, more contributing.

    A concept called the Pygmalion Effect emphasizes that the positive and high expectations of the supervisor help mold the expectations individuals hold for their own high performance. This fact is on my top ten list for “what every supervisor must know.”

    The Galatea Effect, also on the list, states that, even more important than the supervisor’s expectations, the expectations an individual has for her own performance govern that performance. Convinced? If you’re looking for ways to increase staff self-esteem, these ideas will help.

    • Act as if you have high self-esteem. Your behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, and example are a powerful role model for staff members. How you look, talk, present yourself, and act send the most powerful message possible to all staff members.
    • Practice personal integrity and fairness. Model it and expect it from others. People who feel they can tell the truth, without fear of reprisal, grow as they experiment and experience success and failure.
    • Provide frequent feedback that reinforces what people do well and corrects the approaches that need improvement.
    • Learn what staff members feel good and positive about doing. Maximize their opportunity to contribute in these activities.
    • Provide assignments that stimulate growth. Ask people to stretch beyond what you have observed them doing in the past. Challenge staff members. Negotiate goals which are realistic, yet a stretch.
    • Provide positive reinforcement, rewards, and recognition to reinforce the standards and practices you believe your staff members are capable of achieving.
    • Create an environment in which people practice self-responsibility. Show that you trust them to report production numbers, deal with employees who are not contributing to the team effort, and succeed and/or fail at implementing new ideas.
    • Demonstrate that it is okay to disagree with the supervisor. Allow the implementation of new ideas, even if they are different than yours. Praise when the approach works and ask the employee to implement more good ideas.
    • Provide clear expectations about performance standards to all employees and express your sincere belief that they can meet or exceed these standards.

    More on motivation? See Development Is More Than Training.

    The opportunity for personal development is one of the more important variables in personnel selection and retention today. Training and education, in what the employee is interested in learning, is one of the key factors in retention and motivation.

    Employers who pay for classes, conferences, and professional associations encourage staff growth and ensure staff motivation. One of my clients, a mid-sized manufacturing company in Romulus, Michigan was committed to becoming a learning organization and to the ongoing professional growth of staff.

    They paid for classes employees took, regardless of topic, because they believed they had better employees when employees chose to learn and develop their knowledge. At this same company, a press supervisor and a press operator shared with me that they were having trouble applying the team development skills they were learning from me at work.

    Their local Rotary Club and their Little League Baseball team were benefiting, however. As the company gradually changed its culture, the practice they had in team building within the outside organizations bore fruit within the company. So, cross-fertilization will benefit your organization in the long run.

    I don’t think many will argue with me about the importance of staff development. The important twist, however, is to allow staff members to determine the areas in which they want education and training. These ideas will help you increase staff motivation by providing opportunities for development.

    • In conjunction with each staff person and their supervisor, create a Performance Development Plan which is reviewed quarterly.
    • Offer regular, active assistance to enable employees to carry out their plans. An example is to monitor topics about which many employees seek information and offer classes and learning opportunities in these areas.

      Ensure that supervisors are sitting down with employees quarterly and that people are making progress on their plan. Use slow months in your business as opportunities for staff development.
    • Pay for classes, conferences, books, and other learning opportunities for all staff. Ask staff to regularly visit customers to learn more about their needs from your organization.
    • Read books or see videos together as a staff. Schedule time to discuss what people are learning from the reading. Use the reading to develop new ideas and approaches.

      At TechSmith Corporation (the developers of SnagIt and Camtasia software for multimedia screen capture), the marketing staff regularly selects and reads books which will help them develop their marketing skills.
    • Schedule meetings which span several departments or two layers of management in your organization. Use these meetings as opportunities to teach employees about your business.
    • Ask various people to represent your department at company meetings. Employees will expand their outlook, feel important and expand their knowledge about the business.
    • Schedule people into assignments that stretch their skills and cause them to learn.
    • Provide cross-training opportunities so that staff members learn all of the jobs in their work areas. You’ll increase your flexibility and theirs as well.
    • Use promotions and lateral assignments to further develop staff skills.
    • Eliminate jobs that are repetitive and that have a deadly sameness day in and day out. Think about what is happening to the minds, the talents, the interest and the flexibility of the people who do them. Your staff deserves better than this.

    More on motivation? See Motivation and Positive Morale Resources.

    One of your most frequent requests from this HR site is for more information about building high employee morale. You want a workplace in which high morale translates into positive motivation, increased productivity, exceeding expectations for performance and happy employees. These resources will expand your knowledge and thinking further.

    Set Them Free: Two Musts for Motivation
    Everyone is motivated about something!

    Find out how to create a work environment that enables people to express that motivation at work.

    Trust Rules: The Most Important Secret
    Without it, you have nothing. Trust forms the foundation for effective communication, employee retention, and employee motivation and contribution of discretionary energy, the extra effort that people voluntarily invest in work. When trust is present, everything else is easier. Learn more.

    Promote Self-Discipline
    You can create a work environment in which people choose to practice self-discipline and thus, minimize the need for supervisory disciplinary action. Intriguing? Find out more.

    The Daily Motivator
    You're so busy finding ways to motivate everyone else, be sure you take time for some daily motivation for yourself.

    Employee Motivation Center
    Everything you need to understand employee motivation and how to develop positive employee morale.

    More on employee motivation?

    See the first part of this article: Motivation Success.