Is your most important asset your facilities? Um, no. Is your most important asset all of your inventory? That would be a no, also. Oh, okay, so it must be all that expensive equipment. Nope.
Your most important asset is your employees.
I know, it’s not earth-shattering and you’ve likely heard it before. You probably even agree with it. But are your words and actions conveying this?
In our recent environment of layoffs, pay reductions, and elimination of benefits, it’s more crucial than ever to make an effort to show employees that they are important.
As a matter of fact, you can help employees to feel important while also motivating them to be more productive. That’s right. By effectively motivating them, you automatically gain the benefit of showing them that they are invaluable to your organization.
Sound interesting? Read on.
What do warehouse managers and behavioral psychologists have in common? They both regularly think about what motivates people. But what do they not have in common? Warehouse managers don’t always know the most effective, research-based ways to motivate staff, while behavioral psychologists live in that research-driven world. But just as importantly, psychologists know how to do it in a way that makes people feel important.
Theories on what motivates people have evolved over time. Arguably the most famous is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In 1954, Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, published a theory on what motivates us as humans. He postulated that only when our lower-order needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied can we focus on higher-level needs of influence and personal development. His theory has stood the test of time and is used to this day.
For managers, covering the foundational parts of the hierarchy means that your employees have to have acceptable and safe working conditions and feel a sense of security and stability. But they also need to have meaningful relationships with workmates and feel like they are part of a team. According to the theory, only then can employees become more productive and effective. And only then can they feel like they are truly adding value to their workmates and their company. Only then can they feel important.
Several years after Maslow’s theory was published, a behavioral scientist named Frederick Herzberg presented a different view on motivation. His was called the Two-Factor Theory of Motivation. One set of factors, called Hygiene Factors, result in reducing motivation if they are not present. Similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, these are the basics: security, working conditions, relationships, a fair salary, and clear supervision. If these are absent or lacking, they lead to job dissatisfaction and, subsequently, less motivation.
On the other side of the equation are Motivators. The presence of these lead to job satisfaction and, as the name implies, motivation. Some of these factors have become staples in the realm of employee motivation and consistently show up in modern management books and articles. They include an environment that allows for achievement, recognition for excellent work, the ability to take on more responsibility, opportunities for advancement, and the encouragement to learn and grow.
What’s interesting about this theory and, again, how it’s similar to Maslow’s, is that the Motivators lose their effectiveness if the Hygiene factors are not present. In other words, the foundational aspects of employment – good working conditions, a feeling of security, enforced workplace rules, sufficient pay, etc. – must be met in order to power the motivational factors.
As managers, it’s critical to understand that these mundane aspects of a job are actually vitally important to employees. The core items must be given attention and must be taken very seriously. For example, employees need to be provided the basic tools that allow them to do their best work. This could include a computer that is powerful enough to support what they do and isn’t always crashing, software that allows them to be productive and efficient, or even heavy equipment that is safe and is functioning properly. When managers take the time to ensure their team members always have the necessary tools and equipment to perform their jobs excellently, they lay the groundwork for staff to feel motivated and, yes, to also feel important.
While these older theories definitely have their place in the 21st century, there are more recent theories that have likewise received a lot of attention.
In 2009, Daniel Pink released a book called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. His theory is summarized in a wildly-popular video that uses a unique style of animation. The research he conducted showed us that what truly motivates people are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. People want to feel in control of what they are doing, they want to be great at what they do, and they want to feel like what they are doing is making a difference.
Managers would be wise to incorporate Pink’s theory into their repertoire. Always challenge yourself to allow your team members to make decisions on their own. Even if you don’t fully agree with an idea they have, support them, and let them run with it. You’ll be surprised at how motivating it is when you give a person or team full ownership of something. And always provide ample opportunities for training. Encourage staff to become the absolute best at what they do. Finally, make sure they know that their efforts serve a higher purpose. For example, whether your team is loading a truck with personal protective equipment (PPE) or avocados, let them know how important their work is to the people who will ultimately benefit from these products.
While some of the components of these theories may seem obvious, it’s surprising how many managers don’t incorporate them. That’s unfortunate because they serve a dual purpose of motivating employees, while also making them feel important. And, in today’s world of uncertainty, making an effort to show employees how truly valuable they are is critical to your company’s success.
No, your facilities aren’t your most important asset, nor is your inventory or equipment. Your most important asset is your employees. Use these theories to not only motivate them, but also to convey that they are indeed what matters most to you and your business.