Monday, June 26, 2017

Decoding the motivational issues

Below are fictionalized case studies that presents dilemma faced in real organizations. And written by me is the recommended solution to the problem. This has been published in Business Manager Magazine June 2017 edition.

Here below are few situations wherein employees are engulfed with motivational issues. The situations describe the motivational problems of individual employees and of organizations as a whole. And written by me is the potential solution to each problem.

Issue No. 1 - Sarita Dewan is an engineer who has been working with a leading software company for the past 15 years. She is interested in a managerial post. Most engineers in managerial positions in the company have had some administrative experience as project directors before they were promoted. Although Sarita knows that she needs the administrative experience, she is reluctant to take on the responsibility as a project director because of the hassles in coordinating the activities of various functions.

Potential Solution - Sarita is working in her comfort zone in same position for the past 15 years in same company. So this implies that she is doing well in her current profile and company is satisfied with her performance. So Sarita's both physiological & security needs are satisfied as per Maslow's Need Hierarchy Model. At some point or the other in one's career life, an individual yearns for change or growth especially when the colleagues / peers around you are doing the same and one sees them progressing. However change and growth inadvertently comes with risks and that implies getting out your comfort zone. The risk factor involved may work (opportunity) or may not work (risk - effect of uncertainty). Incase of Sarita, additional responsibilities that come with promotion involve doing new things never done before which an employee after a certain period of time maybe reluctant to do so since the basic needs (physiological & security) are already satisfied. The suggested solution to this is to build confidence into the incumbent Sarita, get her to come out of insecurity. This can be further resolved by offering regular training and showing the bigger picture.

Issue No. 2 - The Infogem TV Manufacturing Company has been using a performance-based bonus system to boost employee productivity. Quarterly bonuses are paid to work group that exceed the quarterly performance goals stipulated by the company. The initial response to the incentive system was highly favorable with more than half the number of work group exceeding the performance goals. However, as time passed, the human resources department started receiving complaints from a number of supervisors about low morale and motivation among their team members.

Potential Solution - Many employees equate compensation with the important activities the organisation wants to achieve. For example, incase of Infogem TV Manufacturing Company, quarterly bonuses are paid to work groups that exceed the quarterly performance goals stipulated by the company. In this situation, everyone clearly understand the importance of performance bonus because their own compensation and rewards are tied to it. However, as time passed, the HR department started receiving complaints from a number of supervisors about low morale and motivation amongst their team members. Hence Infogem TV Manufacturing Company needs to evaluate its approach to employee performance, recognition and rewards to determine the extent to which the employees are satisfied with them, the extent of their participation, and the impact of the system on improved performance.

Issue No. 3 - Last years, Image Motor Company used a sales contest to motivate its sales staff to increase their sales revenue. Two salespersons were selected from each regional sales office for grand prizes. The first prize was an automobile and the second prize was an all-expenses-paid vacation to Manali. The company has decided to continue the programmed because of the positive response to the contest in the first year. Yet, regional sales managers indicate that their sales personnel are not as excited about the contest as they were in the first year. Very few are even talking about the contest.

Potential Solution - Although research indicates that the main elements / key drivers of employee motivation and engagement include being valued and involved, other factors that affect employee motivation and engagement can vary significantly from organization to organization or within an organization from site to site which is exactly the case with Image Motor Company. One size fits all approach will not work. The Company should differentiate its employee motivation and engagement methods amongst the different group of regional employees. Also employees will be motivated and engaged when the company also identifies and corrects a problem that adversely affects their motivation and engagement (dissatisfaction). Just having a sales contest to motivate the staff to increase revenue will not work. For employees it's not just about rewards. They would like their other day to day work related concerns to be addressed as well for them to remain motivated and committed to their work.

Issue No. 4 - Enigma Corporation is an engineering company that designs and constructs industrial facilities. Its main line of business involves oil refinery and coal-gasification facilities. The company’s business has increased substantially in recent years because of energy shortages around the world. Enigma recently hired a large number of engineers just out of school and some from other companies in order to meet the increased demand. The main attraction is financial; Enigma offers higher-than-average pay and fringe benefits. However, thought it attracts a large number of engineers, very few stay for more than 2 years. The president of the company is concerned about the attrition rate of the company.

Potential Solution - The solution to the problem lies in absence of a career progression plan. It is the responsibility of the Managers at Enigma Corporation to help the newly hired engineers with work related development, learning and career progression. Else they run the risk of weaking employee morale and motivation. This adversely impacts employability and consequently organization's ability to maintain a viable workforce to compete effectively. Career progression and worker development programs provide evidence to workers that they are valued by the organization and it's leaders. This, in turn, enhances employee engagement, which enhances productivity. Sometimes, it's not just about financial benefits attraction.

Issue No. 5 - You have recently become the chief operating officer (COO) of a telecommunications company. You are very keen to improve the diversity of your workforce; however, a master plan has to be developed to pursue this goal so as to have support from other groups in the organization. Until now, your organization has been very selective in terms of employing people. The previous COO was generally reluctant to employ women and people belonging to certain minority groups as he felt they would not be able to adjust in the company. As a result, very few women and employees from minority groups occupy top or middle management level positions in the organization.

Potential Solution - In a competitive industry such as telecom, inefficient recruitment and bureaucratic bungling in the hiring process also provides a glimpse of the true management system and can scare off the best prospective employees. In addition, the hiring process represents a terrific opportunity to attract and hire workers with diverse ideas and cultures, without which it will be difficult to capitalize on diverse ideas, cultures, and thinking. This is turn may limit the ability of the organization's workforce to be engaged, innovative and empowered. Productivity suffers, as does the organization's ability to meet the challenges of today's highly competitive environment. Senior Leader i.e. The chief operating officer (COO) has to build a work climate that addresses the needs of a diverse employee base. Recruitment and training are tools to enhance the work climate. Employees are cross-trained to prepare for changing capability and capacity needs. Cross-training, job sharing and rotational assignments promote a more engaged worker and make that worker more valuable to the organization. 

Issue No. 6 - Vikas owns two fast-food shops in a small town in Maharashtra. Each shop sells items such as burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, ice creams, milk shakes, and aerated soft drinks. He employs the local high school and college students to work for him as waiters. He pays his employees on an hourly basis. He has recently observed that they do not process customer orders as fast as they should and customers end up waiting a long time for the food. There is also variation in the quantity offered to customers, with some employees serving very generous portion while others serve very small portions especially while serving ice creams and drinks. Vikas wants to improve customer service and product consistency by changing the reward structure.

Potential Solution - In order to optimise performance, the employees that have been hired by Vikas must be aligned to the objective that he has in mind which is that of improving customer service and product consistency. Failure to do this forces the employees to decide for themselves, subsitute their own ideas instead of being driven / guided by their manager. Failure to provide rewards or recognition that support a customer focus may cause employees to behave as if customers are unimportant. Rewards (or the absence of them) drive behavior and motivate people to respond in certain ways. Recognition, and rewards/incentives could be provided for results, such as for reductions in waiting time for service to customers and for providing error-free services e.g. serving the right portoin of ice creams and drinks.  
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