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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Employee motivation is crucial to any company, February 10, 2006, 2D.

Have you ever heard someone say “he doesn’t need a raise, let’s give him a fancy title?”  You may have even encountered a situation like this yourself.  The belief behind such a statement is that titles provide motivation for a worker to remain with and to perform well for the organization.  Is this an accurate belief?

To answer such a question, one must first define motivation and describe how it works.  In the field of organizational behavior, a common way to define motivation is “something that arouses, directs, and sustains behavior toward the accomplishment of some goal or set of goals.”  The “something” that activates and gives sustained direction to behavior can be a wide variety of things.  Just as people are unique, so are their wants, needs, and desires. 

Some people are driven to achieve internal, or intrinsic, rewards.  Recognition from others for a job well done, feelings of accomplishment, or satisfaction that comes from serving others might be the “things” for which people work and aspire.  Other times people work to receive rewards given from others.  Pay and pay raises, promotions, bonuses, vacation time, and a variety of other externally awarded incentives can be used to direct people’s behavior. 

What is valuable and motivating to one person might be of no value to someone else. An employee covered on a spouse’s insurance plan might have no need or interest in your company’s insurance offerings.  Likewise, employee benefits for family members or dependents have little or no motivating effects for those without family or dependents.

The type of reward strived for also varies among people and even within people at different points in their lives.  Just as hunger pangs drive a person to seek out food and then later subside after food consumption, so might the desire for specific rewards differ at different times in their lives and careers.  Status, promotions, and big offices have more motivational effect for junior employees than for senior employees who have already acquired and attained those things.

So is a job title as motivating as a pay raise?  It depends on the particular needs of the employee and what he or she finds rewarding.  In some cases, a new and improved title could provide enhanced feelings of achievement, recognition, and responsibility—it could enhance motivation and performance.  However, for the employee who is motivated by pay and the things that it symbolizes or can do or the one who struggles to pay bills and support a family, a title will have little or no value.  For people who desire and require pay and raises to keep them directed and performing at work, pay and raises should be given.

Organizations must understand the needs and desired rewards of their workers to bring out the best from their people and to keep them properly motivated.

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© 2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved