The ability to create an environment that motivates employees is a vital skill for managers and supervisors.
Motivation is not a “one size fits all” proposition. Each employee is unique and requires an individualized approach. This uniqueness underscores the need to establish strong supervisor-employee relationships and to get to know each employee on a personal level, while keeping it professional. By getting to know their employees, managers and supervisors can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for each employee’s needs, concerns, priorities, desires, fears, and hopes, which are all essential to motivation.
We must also acknowledge that managers and supervisors do not have complete control over employee motivation. Employees themselves play an essential role in their own motivation through how they chose to view and respond to the workplace. There are also other factors beyond the control of managers and supervisors that influence motivation.
However, managers and supervisors have the opportunity and responsibility to impact that which is within their sphere of influence and to create a great work environment. Understanding the seven elements listed below can help them work towards fulfilling this responsibility.
Seven Elements of Employee Motivation
Research conducted by Krüger & Rootman involving over 400 small businesses focused on seven elements that influence employee motivation which, in turn, influences employee satisfaction and employee commitment. These seven elements are listed below in order, from those with the greatest to the lowest level of influence:
- Interesting and Meaningful Work
- Recognition and Feedback
- Employee Involvement
- Working Conditions
- Strong Leadership
- Company Policies and Environment
- Rewards 
Element 1 – Interesting and Meaningful Work
In Krüger and Rootman’s research, “job interest and importance” had the greatest level of influence on employee satisfaction and employee commitment. The researchers used the following indicators to define job interest and importance: “exciting and challenging jobs; the importance of the individual’s job in relation to the survival of the business; job specialization and rotation; number of activities performed; and authority and control.” 
To support interesting and meaningful work, managers and supervisors need to make employees feel valued and important and to develop, stretch and maximize employee potential. Additionally, they need to place employees in jobs that are interesting and challenging and to ensure employees are crystal clear as to why their work matters.
Thus, managers and supervisors must effectively articulate the importance of their company’s vision and help employees make a concrete connection between the work they do and the vision. Employees need to know that the work they do is meaningful and makes a difference.
Even when a job is repetitive and monotonous by nature, managers and supervisors can use a variety of techniques to make it more interesting and challenging. They can rotate assignments; provide reasonable autonomy over how the job gets done; create opportunities that will challenge employees while advancing company goals; seek employee input about the job; and provide employees with frequent feedback to reinforce the value of their work.
It takes creativity and effort to engage employees in interesting and meaningful work; however, the payoff is huge. Krüger & Rootman found that interesting and meaningful work not only promotes employee motivation, but it also increases productivity, work quality, and attendance. Motivated employees are happy employees, and happy employees show up and produce more and better work. This translates to stronger company performance, more satisfied customers, and increased profits.
In the next post, we will continue our review of the seven elements of employee motivation.
, , , ,  Krüger, J. & Rootman, C. (2010). How do small business managers influence employee satisfaction and commitment? Acta Commercii,10(1). pp. 59 – 72. Retrieved from http://www.actacommercii.co.za/index.php/acta/article/viewFile/114/114. Creative Commons License.