10 rules for art of motivating

In organizations we often come across some highly enthusiastic and motivated people radiating positive energy all around. Such people are the star performers in organizations and the tragedy is that such people are so few and rare. Ever wondered where does that energy and enthusiasm come from?

The word ‘motivation’ is derived from the word ‘motive’ which means a cause, reason, basis, purpose, intention, influence, rationale, thinking, impulse, stimulus, inspiration, incitement, inducement, encourage, desire, attraction and so on. Earlier, the need for a job used to be critical and hence the desire or necessity to maintain the job would have overridden all other factors.

Not any longer! In today’s changed scenario of lopsided manpower supply and demand, motivation has become far more important, as there are many other intrinsic and extrinsic factors which affect performance. Motivation is thus a somewhat complex area explained by numerous theories in human psychology.

In a survey of employees and managers, a very interesting point came across. Both managers and employees ranked the importance of various factors for high motivation. The results were startling. Managers ranked ‘remuneration’ and ‘growth’ as two most important factors for motivation where as employees ranked ‘appreciation of work’ and ‘being part of the organization’ as the two most important factors. It means that remuneration and growth alone are not sufficient to retain and motivate employees and there are other factors which are increasingly becoming important.

This demonstrates the relevance of Maslow’s theory of hierarchy of needs according to which human beings value ‘esteem’ and ‘belonging’ needs higher than the basic needs. In other words, acceptable remuneration and growth have become basic needs and we need to look at other factors to ensure high motivation level across the organization.

The simplest way to understand motivation is to just list all those factors which inspire us to work. If you have come a long way in your career, think and list those factors which inspired you in the past. It’s also useful to list all those obstacles which came in your way and retarded your own performance. In other words, before understanding others understand self.

The following can be an easy check list to follow in the art of motivating:

Maximize interaction

I have seen problems arising due to lack of sufficient communication between employees and their superiors in the absence of which employees often make wrong assumptions, especially due to negative influences. Therefore, take every opportunity to interact be it formal or informal.

Understanding employees

Understand every employee especially their family background and their specific priorities. As said earlier, you cannot motivate everyone by money and there are other factors as well. Use performance appraisals, organizational surveys, 360 degree appraisals and informal meetings to assess both group and individual needs.

Remuneration & appraisal

It is fundamental to have a fair remuneration policy and need to be in line with the industry, to ensure that people love to work for us. Appraisal systems have to be open and transparent and it’s more important that they are perceived to be so by employees.


Remember this is the most important factor for an employee and hence we need to appreciate even the smallest achievement in public. Conversely, failures should be criticized or taken up as far as possible in private unless it’s a group failure.

Merit certificates, trophies, promotional schemes are very important from an employee’s perspective. In my organization in Dubai, an internal scheme called, “Fly Home as a Winner” is the most popular scheme every year. Often we don’t try the simple things such as a pat on the back, considered one of the most important tools in employee motivation.

Facilitate achievement

In organizations which are objective or result driven like in predominantly marketing organizations, goal setting has to be ambitious but not impossible. Further there should be frequent monitoring and all resources made available to facilitate achievement.

Not being able to do an objective or goal, is one of the biggest demotivating factors as it seriously affects the self esteem in an employee and eventually the single most important factor for leaving the organization. No one wants to be a failure.

Training and development

Increasingly there is a desire amongst employees to upgrade themselves in terms of personality and knowledge. Training and development programs have to be periodic with a healthy mix of internal and external programs.

Further, it’s a good idea to use external training programs as a method to recognize individuals.

Health and hygiene

This is also basic need and organizations should apart from providing a basically clean work environment should look at other factors as well. Health insurance is an important requirement and organizations should compulsorily provide the same. Many firms also maintain sport clubs, health clubs, gyms and other facilities which also help in building communities within the larger organization and instill a sense of belonging.

Organizations should get innovative too. Recently I came across an organization in Dubai which has started providing fresh fruits and juices free to employees to develop healthy eating habits. It’s also now a common practice in organizations to celebrate birthdays, festivals, product launches and organize office picnics etc.

A highly energetic, positive work environment free from politics and gossips is ideal and we should strive to achieve this.  However, some amount of gossip is unavoidable and we should be alert to ensure that gossips if at all are there, are ‘positive’. This will happen if ‘positive’ employees are part of the gossip. Similarly office politics can be a deadly menace and a negative and demotivating factor.

Every organization has its vision and mission statements, which should be explained to every employee. Style of management should be open and participative. Managers should be always available with an open door policy to take suggestions or address grievances. Wherever possible, employees should be part of the decision making process and where this is not practical, they should be made to understand the basic logics.  This will ensure sense of belonging and drive organizational resources to achieve the common vision.

It’s shocking but true that in many organizations employees do not know or haven’t met or heard the CEO’s. It’s important that such irregularities should be avoided and CEO’s must make it a point to meet and address employees.


There is only change which is permanent in this world. In a dynamic environment, what used to work till yesterday, may not work today.

There is always pressure to retain employees and get the best out of them, as recruitment and training is expensive. We, as modern managers need to think on innovative methods to understand and motivate employees. While we are under pressure to motivate and retain employees for optimizing performance, this is only one important aspect of management.

In an effort to motivate employees, it’s critical that managers don’t overdo in wooing employees and compromise on issues such as discipline which always should take precedence over other issues. There is a lot of science behind motivation and what motivates people. People need to be inspired, induced, incited or encouraged to remain motivated and perform at their true potential.
Our communication skills including body language and gestures are significant in motivating employees.

While implementing all that we learn from the science of human psychology, it’s more important how we implement them.  Motivating people is therefore more an art than a science.

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V Pradeep Kumar

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