In 1983, Ricardo Semler made history! He owned the company named Semco, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. He relieved most of the top managers from their duties, flattened the hierarchical organizational structure into a lateralized employee-equity focused culture and turned his entire business around by handing over the company to its employees. The employees immersed themselves into this culture, hired leaders based on votes, set up their own work schedules, and evaluated themselves and others to make this business one of the most successful ventures of its time. 20 years later, Ricardo still finds himself seldom involved in the bureaucracy of management. Profits have steadily grown, and turnover has been less than one percent against the industry average of 20%. He attributes his success to ridding of top management and boosting employee involvement as the primary motivation tactic in his business.
According to a survey conducted in 2020, the global recession is likely to reduce the demand for Sri Lankan exports and lead to some form of job loss (Kithmina,2020). In order to overcome this dilemma, the following motivational strategies can take effect to ease the mindsets of employees. Motivational strategies can take many forms. It is the fundamental process of accounting for an individual’s direction, intensity, effort, and persistence towards attaining a goal. The pandemic has left most employees with a low morale and eagerness to sprout performance in many industries in Sri Lanka. Whilst employee involvement may seem like a good strategy to motivate employee creativity and thereby workplace innovation, there are other contemporary motivational theories that can be put into practice to placate the side effects of returning back to a slow paced work environment after the lockdown has been lifted.
The ERG motivational theory focuses on the existence, relatedness, and growth needs of an employee. Existence is related to the basic material existence, relatedness is the desire to maintain productive relationships, and growth needs relate to the intrinsic desire for personal development. These three needs can be satisfied at the same time of an employee’s life cycle.
The cognitive motivational evaluation theory argues that extrinsic rewards such as pay for performance diminishes intrinsic rewards. The reason being the individual experience loses control over his or her own behaviour where the perception of causation of why he or she works on a task is lost.
In 1960, Edwin Locke proposed that working toward goals are primarily a source of motivation. Different types of goals produce difference outcomes. For example, accepting difficult goals produces higher results, and feedback leads to better performance than no feedback.
Moreover, the flow and intrinsic motivation theory suggests that the key element of the flow experience is that its motivation is not related to the end goals. The timelessness feeling of a task, which is the flow of work is ignited from the activity itself rather than trying to reach a specific goal. After the flow of task is completed, the employee may feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the experience.
Finally, employee motivation in the age of automation needs to focus on learning and more engaging work. Only a few jobs are entirely fully automated. Although artificial intelligence has the ability to replace 70% of all jobs, these are more related to predictable and physical work than the more intellectual creative aspects of a job that cannot be replicated by machines. Furthermore, work redesigns and automation promote more teamwork and group activities due to the ever-changing work environment. Such change brings about greater collaboration and melting hierarchies resulting in a fast-paced work environment. Automation promotes the need for higher cognitive and social skills that require emotional stability.
While it is inadvisable to utilize a large number of motivation strategies, it is always good to understand the underlying significance of using a few theories in the workplace. The most important thing to recognize is that each employee is different, and everyone should not be treated alike. Managers need to spend time understanding what’s important to each employee to individualize goals and rewards accordingly. Performance should be linked to rewards in most ways regardless of how closely rewards are correlated to performance criteria. Rewards should be perceived by employees as equating with the effort towards their jobs.
Angela D Ponrajah