Motivating Staff :: A long term approach

We had a management meeting yesterday to plan out our actions for the next year. It was not as much of a strategic level meeting as the the targets and strategies to adopt had been agreed upon during a group level meeting the week earlier. This was more of of a operational, tactical level meeting. That's about all I will say about strategy. It's supposed to be confidential you know.

But one of the topics that popped up on the sidelines was on how to improve the efficiency levels of the staff. We were being compared to our counterparts in Singapore and Philippines and was told that our efficiency was low.

Our approach was tied to motivating staff to be more efficient. I honestly believe that in this trade; software engineering, you cannot run a software development center like you run a manufacturing plant. These guys work with their intellectual capitol. It's a mind job. So the efficiency should come out of them. They should be motivated to be creative and to come up with innovations day in and day out. They should be given the right push.

So how do we motivate staff? I know that money is a big factor, specially in Sri Lanka, where the Cost of Living is shooting up day by day. And to these young guys who are just starting out in thier lives, newly married and planning to marry, money is a big motivator. But from a company point of view, they have certain limitations. After all, the company is after profits, bigger and better.

In the light of this, how can we motivate people? Also, considering that money loses it's temptation after a certain point.

My argument is you can motivate your staff by being genuinely interested in their development. By being a true mentor and a teacher to them. All of the guys in my trade are interested in learning new technologies and to keep up with the latest developments. Us as managers, should identify their strengths and weaknesses and should guide them along the proper paths.

In environments where the usual carrot and stick appraoch has been used to motivate the staff, after sometime, any new development program will be looked at with scepticism. This cannot be avoided because, this is the way it has been in the past. But if you want to break out of this vicious cycle, there are a few things to be done.

First is to build the trust. Without trust, nothing can be done. And the best way to be trusted, borrowing from Stephen Covey, is by being trustworthy. It is by being genuine.

So, if the company is genuinely interested and work towards the development of your staff, don't you think your team will reciprocate your deeds? I honestly think so. I know that it may take sometime to build up the trust. But once the trust is established, the employees will be truly interested in the welfare of the company and will do their best.

I know that this is not the only way of motivating people. But I am interested in it because, it is a breakaway from the usual carrot and stick approaches to motivating people and also works without trying to throw more money. Well it will be interesting to see how these suggestions will be adopted, since I will not be around to implement them.


  1. Sampath,
    It was nice to go through the management and even other category articles. I have started a blog which will try and raise issues faced by real life managers and try and address them with alternative solutions. I wanted it to be an open forum kind of thing so that people like you who have insight into the process can suggest alternatives through the comments. I am looking forward to your participation.

  2. Wim

    Hi Sampath,

    I am interested in PMP to. Can you give me your email address? I have some questions on what is available in Sri Lanka.

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