Motivation is not something that can be turned on like a light switch. Motivation, like a field of corn, must be cultivated, nourished and given enough room to expand and grow. The environment, like the soil in the cornfield, is what promotes motivation, and a good manager must know how to create that environment.
The nature of the corn seed is to grow. It can be said that it wants to grow. This is similar in nature to saying that employees want to be motivated to do a good job.
Managers can certainly motivate employees, but not by giving out Employee of the Month plaques. More genuine and repetitive recognition of a job well done is needed for that motivation to be sustained. But it will only be successful if it is predicated on genuine achievement, as compared to finding whatever reason one can for awards. Giving out praise for being on-time for a month will dilute any praise for winning a major contract or beating a critical deadline. It can only be sustained if it is genuine and relatively rare (Lawson, 2011).
Maslow’s well publicized Hierarchy of Needs lists self-actualization as the highest of those needs, but it pre-supposes that one has already achieved the lower level needs, such as belongingness and self-esteem. It can be argued that those lower level needs are not lower, as in a vertical structure, but equal, as in a more horizontal manner.
Self-actualization is typically described as maximizing one’s potential, which could be a pre-requisite to achieving self-esteem, basically flipping the top two items in the hierarchy. Secondly, maximizing one’s potential can lead to more of a sense of belongingness (especially in a group of high achievers) and so can, in effect, drop self-actualization to the third tier of the hierarchy.
In order to retain talent, it must be determined what specific needs the talented individual has, and those needs must then be addressed. A talented graphic artist might be somewhat motivated by a raise or a special parking space, but being the only one in the office to get a new MacBook with the latest graphics software, with his or her name engraved on it, or a private work space where he or she can do design work without distraction will likely help to retain that talented employee for a long time.
The point here is that to suggest that there are specific formulas for motivation is to believe that humans , although quite similar and predictable in many respects, all simply respond to the same stimuli, as would Pavlov’s Dog. (Sturdy, 2002).
Kimberly, A. G. R. (2004). BEYOND MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS: What do people strive for? Performance Improvement, 43(10), 27-31. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/237236046?accountid=34899
Lawson Consulting Group. (2011). How to motivate today’s worker. Retrieved from http://www.lawsoncg.com/lcgi-article_motivate.htm
Sturdy, S. (2002). Dog-days at the data factory. Nature