What’s the Best Way to Motivate People?

Editor’s Note: Dr. John Sullivan has been a provocateur and strategist in the field of human resources and talent management for over 30 years. His specialty is HR strategy and designing world class HR systems and tools for Fortune 200 firms, and he’s never been shy about telling it like it is.

That’s why TLNT asked him to share his thinking in a video series titled “$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” Look for these videos twice a week here at TLNT.

Today’s topic: The motivation question

Dr. John Sullivan spends a lot of time thinking about management practices, and he wonders how organizations and HR professionals really motivate people? His solution (which he credits to a manager from Oracle) comes down to this: you don’t worry about motivation because you hire self-motivated people and then move on.

He also notes that non-monetary motivation is critically important, yet in many HR departments, the focus is only on compensation and NOT on motivation and rewards. “There should be a department in HR …(focused) on non-monetary motivation … how to challenge and cause people yo be really excited about their job without giving them any more money.”

In addition, Dr. John believes that managers should be up front with their employees and ask them (on their first day of work, or at the annual performance review) how they want to be managed and what motivates them. “The key to motivation,” he says, ” is to find out what causes people to be productive and to manage to that.”

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Dr. John also gives some examples of companies that do a great job of offering non-monetary things to help motivate them — like Google, or BestBuy with their ROWE program (Results Oriented Work Environment).

“Can everyone be motivated?” he asks. “Yes. Should a manager spend time on it? I’m not sure. But if we sat down and asked ‘what motivates you?’…  and then managed to that, we would find not only more motivated employees, but more productive ones, too.”

Did you miss the last segment of$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” on “Who is the Greatest HR Leader Ever?” You can see it here.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.