Employee motivation – central to positive performance

Following her exploration of leadership in the last issue, Florence Orban looks at motivation and why it is central to success

Florence Orban

Last month we looked at the topic of leadership and the ability of leisure managers to build effective teams while getting the best performance from each member. A key factor in regard to this is employee motivation.

Keeping team members motivated is vital. Not only is it a central way of improving productivity and customer service, it is essential for employers in the sport and active leisure sector wanting to attract and retain skilled, loyal staff. Yet, as any manager will tell you, motivating employees is easier said than done. In spite of enormous research, the subject of motivation is not clearly understood and more often than not, poorly practised. To understand motivation it is necessary to understand human nature itself, and therein lies the problem!

It is widely accepted that job performance is a function of ability and motivation. Ability depends on education, experience and training and its improvement is a continual process. On the other hand, motivation can be improved quickly. Moreover, it is a skill which can and must be learned if a business within the leisure industry is to survive and succeed.

There are seven broad strategies which a manager can apply to motivate his/her staff: positive reinforcement: basing rewards on job performance; effective discipline and sanction; treating people fairly; satisfying employee needs; setting work-related goals; and restructuring jobs. While these are the basic strategies, the precise motivational system must be tailored to the individual situation and organisation, so the final ‘mix’ will vary.

In the 1960s the psychologist Frederick Herzberg conducted human relations research to identify what made people motivated or satisfied at work (motivators) and what made them dissatisfied (hygiene factors). Herzberg discovered that hygiene factors, which focus on the organisational environment, do not lead to higher levels of motivation but without them there is dissatisfaction. The hygiene factors include: the organisation, its policies and administration; the kind of supervision or leadership received; working conditions; interpersonal relations; salary; status; and job security. The motivators focus on what people want from their job. This includes achievement, recognition, growth and advancement and interest in the job. These factors should be engineered into the jobs that employees do in order to develop intrinsic motivation.

This type of internal motivation involves appealing to an individual’s sense of self. It can be done by showing appreciation where it is due, engaging with staff, using ‘you’ statements when giving praise, showing that you are listening by paraphrasing, and showing respect for an employee’s right to be heard and understood. Leisure and fitness managers should ensure that both these approaches (hygiene and motivation) are addressed simultaneously to achieve motivation and avoid dissatisfaction in employees.

As well as motivation, we know that a good manager gives support and guidance to their team, allowing them to realise their full potential, while benefitting the business at the same time. There are three techniques to developing supportive and trusting relationships in the workplace. First, advising provides the team with the information and advice needed to deal with a specific work-related task, situation or event. Second, mentoring is when an experienced team member guides the development of a less experienced team member over a period of time. Finally, counselling involves helping an employee to overcome personal difficulties that may have a negative impact on their performance.

Mentoring is particularly appropriate in the sport and leisure workplace, where new recruits might lack experience and skills in key areas but are enthusiastic and keen to impress. This means managers can shape them to suit their business needs while up-skilling and providing new employees with a more secure career path.

Florence Orban is interim chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure.

The Skills Academy works in conjunction with approved training providers across the country, as well as the CMI and Learndirect, to offer a range of qualifications and courses to help managers looking to improve the motivation of their staff. Such courses include Motivation, Interpersonal Skills/Trust, Supporting Individuals, Supporting Others, Coaching and Building the Team. For more information on the wide range of leadership and management courses available from the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure, visit www.sportactivensa.co.uk 

For previous NSA columns and other articles in The Leisure Review visit the features page.

The Leisure Review, July 2009

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“Mentoring is particularly appropriate in the sport and leisure workplace, where new recruits might lack experience and skills in key areas but are enthusiastic and keen to impress.”

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