By Goke Ilesanmi
More than ever before, employees are getting de-motivated due to many factors. One of these is delay in or outright lack of payment of salaries occasioned by the global economic downturn. But beyond the issue of delay in or outright lack of payment of salaries is the failure to motivate or recognise employees. Findings show that most businesses are set up to treat machines better than people. In most organisations, machines are investments while people are costs, despite voicing the cliché “People are our greatest asset”. What a great deceit! Corporate organisations should endeavour to restore some humanity to the workplace so as to get employees motivated.
Most organisations do not even know what motivation or recognition is all about. Dan Bobinski, president and CEO of Leadership Development, Inc., a US-based organisation and co-author of “Living Toad Free: Overcoming Resistance to Motivation” says, “A mistake many managers make is thinking they are motivating people when in reality they are manipulating them. Bottom line, it’s manipulation when we think of a reason others should do something and then convince them of our correctness. Quite frankly, this is not a quality approach.”
To be able to achieve corporate objectives, organisations need to put right motivation in place. Through this approach, they will be able to arouse employees’ commitment, loyalty, happiness and even satisfaction. As Shel Holtz, author of “Public Relations on the Net and Corporate Communications” puts it, “Employee commitment and job satisfaction are the twin holy grails of employee communication, often overlooked in the tactical rush to produce knockout publications… Building commitment and satisfaction should serve as the foundation for all internal communication efforts.” Commitment is the rational choice employees make to dedicate their energies to supporting organisational goals and initiatives. It is different from loyalty, which is an emotional response that employees feel for organisations that promise them job and income security.
Employees and machines
Let us go back to the issue of employees and machines. Many people may begin to wonder why it is being suggested that organisations should treat their employees better than their machines or at least like their machines. Wayne Turmel, a speaker and writer who lives in Chicago says in most organisations, machines are investments, people are costs. Turmel illustrates with a company that makes gizmos. “You go out and buy a Gizmo Processor 3000 (The newest model GP 3000). You will invest in it, maintain it, budget for it and protect it. Not only that, but accounting principles and the laws of most countries encourage you to do so,” says Turmel.
There is no doubt that your GP3000 is going to cost you a lot of money, but that is okay, because by capitalising the costs you can classify this as an investment, rather than a cost. You can amortise the costs, write off the payments, and include it as a company asset. According to Turmel, “Furthermore, the costs can be planned for at the beginning of your fiscal year and properly assigned. The budgeting process and General Accepted Accounting Practices make it easy to invest in machines.” The question then is: Where do your “people costs” go? Even though for most companies now, human capital is by far the biggest expense, there is no legal mechanism to invest in them as assets.
How do you maintain your employees? We all know that training, reward and recognition, a comfortable work environment and networking opportunities are all vital factors in recruiting and retaining. They are the “maintenance” components of a people-centric business. Try to tell your accountant you want to put “reward and recognition” as a top-line cost and hear his or her response. Organisations are conscious of the maintenance of their machines at the expense of the maintenance of their human resource. “Your GP 3000 is an expensive critter to maintain, so you will probably get a service agreement (which is an acceptable cost), budget for parts and downtime, and know exactly how much you will spend to prevent problems you know will happen,” Turmel says.
Experts say one huge challenge to treating your team as well as you do your machines is the way most companies budget. There are two major hurdles. First, budgets are done once a year and set in stone. Second, line managers are then held responsible for every variance from that number. According to Turmel, “If our GP3000 springs an oil leak, or production is down it’s pretty easy to get it fixed. Either you already have money budgeted for that possibility, or the line manager knows they have to suck it up and take a hit that month- the ramifications are too grave not to.”
Just like most people accord health of their cars priority over family health, people problems are harder to get money for in corporate organisations. First, the problems are often not as immediately visible. The odds of an employee suddenly stopping all production and spewing oil everywhere are remote. Training, benefits and reward and recognition are key components in keeping your people functioning at a high level. Is your organisation set up to identify and fund problems that occur in your “people processes” as easily as you do with your capital investments?
Organisations have a quality control department to monitor the output of their machines and any variations are investigated and fixed right away. Who is keeping an eye on your employees to ensure they are properly treated or ‘serviced’? Until organisations realign their internal business practices with the realities of the modern service economy, there will continue to be disagreement between their words and actions and it will be very difficult for them to have a motivated and committed workforce.
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GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is a Certified Public Speaker/Emcee, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker, Career Management Coach, Renowned Book Reviewer, Corporate Leadership Expert and Editorial Consultant.
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