Measuring employee motivation

According to recent research by Corven management consultants, only 36% of 50 senior executives polled thought their employees cared about whether or not their business was successful.

While it is not new for senior management to see their staff as unmotivated it is, however, new for them to care about it.

It seems as though a growing number of senior executives are drawing a link between employee motivation and business success. As a result they are keen to know how motivated staff are, and what causes any lack of motivation.

Why is motivation important?

“I cannot understand why employers would not want to measure staff motivation,” said Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.

“Above all else, a motivated workforce is likely to produce better quality outputs,” he said.

“However, measuring motivation levels also allows you to assess the success or failure of specific HR initiatives, and to benchmark your company against others.”

He believes that most companies with a significant number of employees now conduct workforce surveys. Most of them engage research agencies to run them, both to tap into agency expertise and resource and because employees are more likely to have faith in the impartiality of the process if it is run by an independent third party.

Michael Stone, head of research at employee research provider ERS, points out that measuring motivation can also help with recruitment and retention.

“Generally on our surveys salary is not the primary reason for wanting to change employer. Feeling that there are prospects to advance within an organisation, feeling empowered, feeling valued and liking colleagues are all factors which tend to produce high motivation.”

How to go about doing it

While it is possible to conduct employee motivation surveys over the phone or in person, many companies prefer to do them by post or online.

When speaking to another person, respondents tend to be less harsh in their judgements and so results are often more positive than they would be otherwise.

Also most companies want to send out the message that they are interested in the views of all employees and it is rarely to possible to interview every employee by phone or in person.

Beyond the choice of medium and scope, there are several methodologies from which companies can choose. From an HR point of view, the survey itself will often be less important than what happens before and afterwards.

It is essential to get pre-survey communication right. Staff will be wary of giving honest answers, and so companies need to explain exactly what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how the process will work.

As Andy Buckley, director of employee research at agency HI Europe explains, companies also need to be prepared to act on the findings.

“Well-intentioned initiatives from HR can end up being counter-productive if they simply raise expectations which are then left unfulfilled,” he said.

“The process usually requires the support of the chief executive and a genuine commitment to listen to employee views and to act to improve motivation.

“Companies that manage to do this almost always find the process extremely useful,” he says.