Friday, 27 April 2012

Practical Application of Motivation Theories

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As a Supervisor in the Superannuation and Training Section of the Finance and Personnel Department, both the Clerical Officer who reports to me, and I are recent direct entrants to the organisation with no prior Superannuation experience.

The aim of this document is to outline theories of Motivation which were consulted, applications developed in the workplace and the short-term outcome of their implementation.

Motivation is of particular importance as our roles are scattered, variable in content and highly reactive, with great responsibility and pressure. Demotivation and reduced productivity could occur through distraction, loss of focus and poor organisation. This would be particularly unacceptable as we are very client focused. A highly intelligent Clerical Officer who lacks work experience and is not able to upgrade to a higher post exacerbates the situation.


Motivation is a complex subject that attempts to rationalise the way people act. Everyone has needs and expectations that drive us towards the achievement of desired goals. The challenge for today’s manager is to create an environment where people are given the opportunity to achieve worthwhile goals, whilst feeling of value to the organisation.

Maslow (14) argued that behaviour would be determined by the strongest unsatisfied need in his defined hierarchy. While highly enlightening, the main flaw in applying this theory in management is that the satisfaction of these needs is often determined by factors outside the workplace.

Later, Herzberg contended that even if “dissatisfiers” were positive, this would only ensure a state of neutrality and that positive motivators (Achievement, Recognition, Challenging Work, Responsibility, Advancement, personal Development) were required to actually encourage motivation.

This theory challenges Managers not to look at staff as units of production, but to work proactively to provide positive “motivators”, specific to individuals to encourage self-development with the promise of a proportional return in productivity.

Practical Application in the Workplace

The first objective was to find out what motivates / frustrates the team and to develop practical methods of creating motivation using these areas as a guideline. The following were identified as being important

1. Scattered Role and Measurable Daily Achievement

It was decided at a team meeting to develop a work schedule database that identified tasks as belonging to certain core areas and their frequency of occurrence. Individual strengths or, areas where development was desired, were used as criteria to reassign ownership of tasks where necessary to minimise division of core areas.

Reports are printed off showing daily, weekly, monthly and annual tasks. This identifies areas of responsibility and has allowed team members to devise a basic work plan into which the reactive aspects can be fitted. New tasks are either added to the routine database or fitted in as “one-off’s”.

Team member’s report less frustration as clear work objectives are being set and completed. Completed tasks have become obvious and a feeling of achievement and focus has developed. A feeling of control and ability to plan has led to a feeling of increased willingness to take on other tasks as their delivery can be planned.

. Inefficient Information Storage delaying Tasks

Information storage was haphazard leading to difficulties in access. The team decided to restructure both paper and computer storage systems with the objective being to streamline information access. Existing files would be broken down into smaller units with one topic per file, and filed alphabetically according to financial year where possible. An index to the system was created.

It was suggested that wherever possible, procedures be drawn up (including filing paths and copies of documents) to negate “relearning” less frequent tasks and reduce time spent locating related documents.

The team reported satisfaction on achieving the objectives set and increased efficiency from streamlined information flow. The team has been motivated to revise other procedures.

. Personal Growth and Challenge

During database development (see Page ) a challenging developmental aspect was identified. This would normally form part of the Clerical Supervisor’s remit. After discussion portions were delegated. Weekly status meetings were formalised as a forum to discuss issues and progress.

The Clerical Officer felt this has provided an ongoing challenge and will create core skills to motivate applications for senior roles. Further education relevant to the section, but of benefit to career progression is also under discussion.

The Clerical Officer has given positive feedback, shown more interest in the role, contributing valuable suggestions for development.

4. Financial and Career Advancement

Although this aspect of motivation was discussed at length, it was agreed that the most that could be achieved in the current role was to put in place the foundations for future growth and ensure that skills required for the current role were developed. As no boards exist in the organisation and recruitment for next level roles is not being undertaken in the next year, we have had to face the real possibility that a valued member of staff may move out to shortcut the route to financial improvement. It is hoped that the balance of improved motivation and a good working environment may delay this until some acceptable prospects become available in house.


• Motivation is as much about you as the team � my motivation will significantly effect others both positively and negatively.

• There are issues over which Managers have no control over that can affect motivation.

• Motivation is an ongoing process, as goals are achieved motivators will change accordingly

• People support what they help to create

• Listening is a vital tool in motivation

• Believing and trusting people is a great motivator

• Leadership is a great challenge - learning to lead a team is a greater challenge than any role in itself and more rewarding when done well.

Continuous development

• Finding out more about management skills � reading and practising!

• Developing a greater depth to management skills � Training

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