Motivate the Demotivated

Employer after employer is faced with hiring low wage earners who are seldom motivated toward high performance. Except for workplace newbies, most low wage earners are there precisely because of their lack of motivation, creating a classic Catch-22 for employers. If it's true, as the saying goes, that "I'd rather have ignorance on fire than knowledge on ice," how can you turn up the burners on low wage earners without increasing turnover? Here are three suggestions:

  1. Pay them a bit more. There's no better example than the In-N-Out hamburger chain located throughout the Southwest. They attract the best in terms of low-wage talent largely by advertising that they pay at least a dollar per hour more than their competitors. Because low wage earners are motivated by survival, security, and the need to belong (in that order) the extra pay makes far more difference to them than it might to someone earning three to five times that amount. Pay them the extra money with the understanding that they'll be excellent employees. Take a look at their web site www.in-n-out.com.
  2. Show them that there's a way up. Whether it's a landscaping business, a retail operation, or telephone bank, every company needs managers and supervisors. Show employees that there's a career path for them if they follow guidelines and expectations, including training and experience. Offer examples of other employees who have climbed the corporate ladder and the path they had to follow. Have those employees act as spokespeople for career motivation.
  3. Help them belong to something larger than themselves. A classic example is Service Master: They don't just clean buildings; they provide Service. A sense of belonging enhances cohesiveness and communication, whether it comes from a corporate theme, company uniforms, team sponsorships, or community activities. By the way, don't assume that you know what your employees want to belong to: Ask them.

Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com.

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