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Insights on employee motivation in the modern era offered during last week’s “Founders Meet-up”

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The topic – “Motivating Employees in the Modern Era” – was certainly timely as companies of all sizes begin to emerge into whatever new normal will exist for them as the nation hopefully moves beyond the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the Thursday noontime monthly “Founders Meet-up” hosted by the FoundersForge entrepreneurial support organization in Johnson City, Brad Ward, Professor of Business Administration at Milligan University, shared his thoughts on the topic. About a dozen people attended in person at the offices of ActionVFX with a handful joining via Zoom.

Brad Ward

Ward, who also directs Milligan’s MBA program, is a frequent writer on the subject of workforce engagement, management theory, and eschatology. His new book – The Motivated Worker: A Manager’s Guide to Improving Job Satisfaction­ – was published November 11, 2020 and is available on Amazon. There is also a website that provides free tools that will help both employees and managers better understand and improve job satisfaction.

Much of Ward’s knowledge comes from more than a decade of experience in the industrial sector. As he opened the interactive presentation, he first noted the difference between engagement and satisfaction. He defined the first as equivalent to the honeymoon phase of a marriage where there is enthusiasm, intensity, a sense of urgency, and an “all-in” commitment. Ward equated satisfaction to a few to many years into a marriage and the level of happiness that exists.

A good deal of his time was devoted to explaining something he called the “two-factor theory” by Frederick Herzberg. Drawing a comparison between Maslow’s theory and Herzberg’s, Ward talked about the importance of what Herzberg called “hygiene factors” as contributors to, but not final deciders of how engaged and motivated a person is.

Hygiene factors include company policies, type of supervision, relationships with others in the organization, salary, working conditions, and job security. “The absence of these will demotivate a person,” Ward said, adding, “They need to be addressed, but they don’t completely satisfy. No one gets pumped by company policy.”

To further illustrate the importance of the two-factor theory, Ward cited Google which offers many items in the hygiene category – a swimming pool, lounges, volleyball courts, three gourmet means a day, and onsite childcare – yet the average tenure for an employee at Google is one year.

Those factors that really determine satisfaction in the workplace and are motivators are things like recognition, advancement opportunities, achievements, growth, and the work itself.

If you want to learn more about the two-factor theory, here’s a link to a nearly six-minute YouTube video.

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