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A Long Term Strategy for Employee Motivation

I remember one of my first supervisory training classes I attended as a young engineer fresh out of college.  One of the questions from the instructor was what do you do when your team is performing at the level you desire? I don’t remember all the potential answers to this multiple choice question, but, I do remember that I got the answer wrong. The correct answer was spend time with your team and get to know them better.  I argued with the instructor and my co-workers that there was no need to get to know your team better, all people wanted was for their performance to be recognized through financial compensation, i.e. a bonus. It took me many years to realize how wrong I was and how right the instructor (and my peers) were.

What I have learned since that class is that pay is not a long term strategy for motivating your employees. Yes, short term it will motivate your employees to work hard, but, if you want consistent, high-performing employees, they need to find fulfillment in their work.  That means that they find the work challenging and rewarding, they enjoy the people they work with and for and they feel appreciated.

Yes, we do work to pay our bills (well, most of us) but work isn’t just about making money.  It is about feeling a level of satisfaction from the activity that we spend a majority of our time doing.  If we were just working to make money, imagine how difficult it would be to consistently stay focused on the details of the job. But, if our employees feel appreciated doing something that they enjoy, that creates a much more productive work environment.

So, how do we go about creating this ideal work environment?  It really does start with getting to know our employees and what they would like to accomplish. Some operators may have a desire to learn a new skill or make a different contribution to the company.  Just because an employee has been in a particular position for a long time doesn’t mean he wants to stay there forever.  Also, look for opportunities for employees to lead committees or company initiatives.  What can’t be overlooked is the importance of making your employees feel appreciated.  Sometimes appreciation can be as easy as a simple thank you.  Or maybe a gift card to a local restaurant.  Or an ice cream sundae in the heat of the summer. It has been my experience that the more spontaneous, the more it means to the employee.

When you come to work, are you feeling appreciated?  If not, your employees probably aren’t feeling it either.  Maybe it is time for a demonstration of appreciation.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to