ICS Magazine

Motivating Your Services-Oriented Employees

August 14, 2001
Building a Profitable Business: Motivating Your Services-Oriented Employees

While pay rate is certainly key to job satisfaction, other factors play a much more prominent role than many bosses think.

One of the biggest challenges facing service businesses in recent years has been finding and keeping good personnel. Not only is it difficult to find and recruit the best people, it's also expensive. Business schools estimate that the cost to replace an employee, after accounting for recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training and lost production is equal to about four times their monthly pay. This cost alone is good reason to invest in some type of positive motivation program aimed at employee retention. Other compelling reasons for a motivational plan include higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, reduced stress and improved image to your customers.

Several years ago, the Harvard School of Business conducted a survey of both employers and employees asking them to identify and prioritize the key factors that contribute to an employee's job satisfaction. The results were pretty interesting in that both groups listed similar items in the "Top 10" list, but in different priority order.

The employers topped their list with pay scale, followed by benefits and job security. While these items certainly made the top 10 for the employees, the first things on the list included developing the "big picture," having a feeling of belonging and being valued. Pay and benefits were further down the list, behind the psychological and conceptual motivators.

This is consistent with current business trends toward "team building" and employee involvement in the planning process. People like to know where they, and how their role fits into the overall scheme of things.

It's important to share the company's goals with employees, and then get team members to buy into them. Think of the old "suggestion box" taken to the next level: Employees offering ideas toward achieving company goals is not only a source of good ideas, it can be a big motivator. The employee begins to take personal pride and ownership in the performance from their department. Occasional team or staff meetings should be held where employee opinions are actually solicited and heard (listened to).

Another aspect of employee motivation is the general work environment itself. Clean, pleasant surroundings conducive to the job being performed are more than just a little important in motivating team members. Having the proper tools and equipment -- in good working order -- also adds to the employee's morale and motivation.

A feeling of fairness and equality in behavior and discipline issues is also essential in maintaining a high level of motivation for team members. Clear, published rules of workplace conduct with established and consistently enforced consequences should be understood and adhered to by everyone, without favoritism. Rules that are enforced inconsistently are worse than having no rules at all.

Finally, allow for personal, social interaction within the team. The occasional company party, picnic or celebration can solidify the team. People that work together day after day often don't really get to know the person they work with without a form of social interaction outside the workplace. Often, this helps people to be more sympathetic to the little personality issues that can become big problems with employee motivation.

In summary, build a team where every member knows their role and where they fit into the overall picture. Make sure every team member feels included and appreciated; clearly define the "rules of conduct" and the expectations; and create a pleasant and comfortable work environment.