employee-motivation-296x300Motivation is considered the driving force that compels or reinforces an action toward a desired goal. Motivation can be divided into two types: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on external pressures or a desire for reward. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation refers to the performance of an activity in order to attain an outcome, whether or not that activity is also intrinsically motivated. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside the individual.

Having intrinsically motivated employees is critical to a successful and productive organization. If intrinsic motivation were absent than anything else would be a temporary fix. Motivation is a personal approach to dealing with people while different things in varying degrees may motivate each person. This requires a shift from traditional “management” into a more “leadership” role. The idea is that you                                           manage projects, but you lead people.

Try motivating your employees through freedom and responsibility. When managers try to intercede and direct the work too much, they limit the ability for the employee to exceed expectations. Managers should be concerned with what gets done and not necessarily how they get there.  Managers should present their employees with the big picture, let them know what needs to be accomplished, and then ask, “How do you want to get it done?”  By giving the employee more freedom to complete their task, they will feel better motivated to deliver great results.

Focus on your employees strengths. Everyone works differently and not everyone works the way you do. To better motivate try playing to your employees strengths. Place an emphasis on their contribution to the team. Compliment them for a job well done and encourage them to produce similar results.

TRUST. Trust your employees. Mistakes will be made, but you must look at mistakes as opportunities to fix problems and move on. Employees should be trusted to deliver exceptional results or else they will never feel motivated enough to do so.

Employees of all levels need a mentor. A mentor acts as an experienced advisor to whom the employee can trust and learn from. Mentors take a genuine interest in the future growth of an employee and their career. It goes without saying that having a manager who really cares about where his or her employee is headed will dramatically increase that employee’s attitude towards production.

On the same line as being a good mentor, managers should take into account their employees work-life balance. Managers should be flexible in schedules, understanding about family commitments, doctor’s appointments, etc. Being understanding of personal situations will be greatly appreciated down the line when these employees are asked to do something extra.

Listen to your employees. Listen to their ideas for job improvement, their problems, concerns, frustrations, conflicts, etc. Listening to your employees will allow you to further understand their strengths and weaknesses and better able you to direct them towards success.

Financial incentives can be both good and bad as a motivational technique. As stated in the beginning of this post, if an employee is lacking intrinsic motivators, than most likely any extrinsic motivators (financial incentives) will be short-lived and a proverbial Band-Aid for the problem.

Financial incentives can be very effective when used correctly. However, there are several ways companies incentive programs fail. One example of a poorly executed plan would be the carrot and stick approach. This approach refers to a policy of offering a combination of rewards and punishment to induce behavior. The name is referencing the act of dangling a carrot on a string in front of a mule while holding a stick behind it. The mule will naturally move forward towards the carrot (reward) while simultaneously moving away from the stick (punishment) an as a result move the cart forward (goal).  The idea behind this concept is that the employee will work hard towards an incentive they never actually receive. This ends up having an adverse effect and actually demotivates the employee.

Another motivational technique to be avoided is The Peter Principle.  The Peter Principle is commonly phrased “employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence”. This refers to the fact that members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit, will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability.  While promoting employees up the ladder is a well-known motivator, that does not mean everyone is cut out for the next level above. Some people are great at task management, but are not necessarily built for managing people. The key is to speak with that individual prior to giving them their new position to see if they are ready for it.

Most importantly, don’t ignore intrinsic motivation. If you are finding that rewards, incentives, perks, benefits, raises, and promotions are all met with minimal success than maybe you are missing the most essential component.

I will leave you with this TED talk by Daniel Pink about the “Puzzle of Motivation“.


linkedin_picSam Fricchione is a Human Resources Consultant for Twinbrook Associates. He is currently completing a Master’s in Behavioral Science at Brown University, where he is active in recruiting and research related to employee performance and productivity.


Research conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the average American would hold around 11.3 jobs during their working years. This number is continuing to rise, especially within the millennial demographic.

You may be wondering, “Why is retention a bad thing? Don’t we want to continuously bring in new talent and ideas?”  In some cases yes, but you must also consider the cost poor retention has on your business. Hiring a new employee costs money. You need to advertise for the new position, set aside time for interviewing, screening, and the hiring process. The new recruit also needs to be trained, which may take a couple weeks pending the level of training needed. The training staff also needs to be compensated for their time.

There are also the implicit costs to consider. A new recruit might take an average of 1 to 2 years to reach the productivity level of an existing staff member.  They need time to adjust to their new role and to become accustom to the business culture and employees they will now be working with.

There is also the potential for lost engagement among other employees. If current employees see high turnover rates they are more likely to become disengaged in their own work and more likely to leave themselves. This will only add to the issues previously stated above.

Employees should be considered “appreciating assets”. The longer they are with the company the more knowledge about that company they accrue and the more productive they become. They learn the products in and out and grow accustom with the organization they have become a part of.

employee retention chart

So what are some ways we can help increase retention?


1.     Hire the right managers

It has been said, “people don’t leave companies they leave managers”. Having a good manager is essential to productivity, performance, and employee engagement. If you remember my previous post on engagement, a good manager was key to having productive employees.  It is important to make sure that there is a consistent open line of communication between employees and managers and that this relationship remains positive.

 2.     Provide career navigation and personal strategies from the get-go.

It is important to provide educational opportunities and training programs to your employees. Well-educated employees are better able to problem solve and deal with daily tasks, which increases productivity and leaves less room for error. Helping employees map out their desired path within the organization, setting performance-directed goals, and offering support to achieve these goals will not only increase engagement, but also retention.

3.     Create a culture of trust.

 Make sure your employees believe in the mantra that “you’re not in business solely to make money, but to help the customer”. Money is a byproduct of success, not the other way around. Managers and employees should work like a team to reach the best solutions to problems. Transparency should also be practiced to prove to employees that they are trusted with the company’s issues just as much as the managers are.

4.     Recognize good performance.

There are many ways to reward an employee for good work performance, whether it be through financial incentives, professional development opportunities, or a simple pat on the back, employees should be recognized when they achieve their goals and perform above the required task.

5.     Hire employees who fit the organizational culture.

Someone might be exceptional at his or her current position, but if the organizational culture isn’t a match, than you are not likely to see maximum performance or retention. By spending adequate time recruiting and interviewing the right hires, you can increase their chances of staying with the company.


In order to be a successful organization you must engage your employees regularly and respect both them and your customers. You must also put the time, energy, and money into building a highly engaging environment. Finally, selecting the right people that fit your organizational culture will ensure retention levels down the line.


linkedin_picSam Fricchione is a Human Resources Consultant for Twinbrook Associates. He is currently completing a Master’s in Behavioral Science at Brown University, where he is active in recruiting and research related to employee performance and productivity.


engage-employees“Good management is not just organization. It is an attitude inspired by the will to do right. Good management is taking a sincere interest in the welfare of the people you work with. It is the ability to make people feel that you and they are the company – not merely employees of it. Good management is your worthiness to have and hold the confidence of others” (Jim Casey, UPS, 1985).

Today I will be discussing the importance of engaging your employees properly. Often heard is the saying “Our employees are our most important assets”, but what does that actually mean? There is an entire body of literature relating to this concept titled “Human Capital”, which explains the strategy companies take when investing in employees.

The Gallup Organization has conducted large amounts of empirical research on employee engagement. Since 1997, Gallup has analyzed responses of over 3 million employees who have participated in the Q12 survey, a 12-question assessment regarding employee engagement levels. Based on the extensive measurement and analysis, Gallup has been able to determine that 29% of the US workforce is engaged, 55% is not engaged, and 16% is actively disengaged. It’s become a statistical benchmark that if more than 29% of your workforce is engaged in your organization, its mission and work, than your company is among the most productive in its class. Now I don’t know about you, but 29% still seems a little low for my taste.

While measurement of employee engagement is necessary to performance improvement, it is not sufficient to achieve productivity improvement alone. Managers play a key role in this function as well. Gallup research shows that well-managed, well-engaged workgroups are 44% more profitable, 50% more productive, and have 50% more customer loyalty than those with low engagement or poor management.

Employee performance is directly related to skills, knowledge, and talent. Skills and knowledge can be taught, but talent can only be selected or hired. It is important to keep in mind that not only do high-performance employees have talent, but so do all other employees.

Talent feedback is critical to engaging employees. Employee’s awareness of their own strengths is a major asset in setting personal and professional expectations. It is important for both the employee and manager to understand that talents vary widely among people and while one person may have strength in one area another may excel in another. Assigning employees to jobs and responsibilities that align with their strengths is a critical step towards successful employee engagement. Naturally, people will feel more positive about succeeding and thus are more likely to succeed if their responsibilities align with their strengths.

Buckingham and Coffman write in First, Break All the Rules: “We have discovered the manager – not pay, benefits, perks, or a charismatic corporate leader – was the critical player in building a strong workforce”.


Examples of employee engagement:

Emotional Attachment:

In order for an employee to feel truly engaged in their work they must feel like they are a part of the organization. They need to feel that the work they are doing is in some way significant, necessary, and beneficial to the company’s success. This will give the employees a sense of purpose and drive them to ensure the work they complete is done well and correctly. Employees who are convinced that their work doesn’t matter or that they are insignificant within the corporate structure will never be fully engaged in their work and therefore are more likely to make foolish mistakes or errors.

Employee Relationships:

Having professional and courteous relationships within the workplace can significantly increase employee engagement. This is not only important for employees on the same level, but for those in management positions as well. Having a volatile relationship with your manager or staff can greatly decrease employee engagement and cause significant reductions in work performance. Managers should remain courteous and friendly with their staff in order to increase positive affect within the department.


The motivation to perform better and to invest more effort into their work is also important for employee engagement. Motivation can be in the form of anything from stock options to an extra day off per month based on performance evaluations. Simply telling your employees how good they are doing is also enough for them to work that much harder the next time around.


Recent research suggests that companies with high employee engagement will have a shareholder return of 19 percent better than the average. On the other hand, organizations that do poorly in employee engagement will return as much as 44 percent less to shareholders than the average. Because of this, employee engagement should be considered a crucial factor in determining how successful your business can become.

Many new age companies will offer unorthodox incentives to increase employee performance and creativity. One famous example is Google’s commitment to offering 20% of their employee’s time to work on personal projects. Google’s “20% Time”, inspired by Sergey Brin’s and Larry Page’s Montessori School experience, is a philosophy and policy that every Google employee spend 20% of their time (the equivalent of a full work day each week) working on ideas and projects that interest that employee. They are encouraged to explore anything other than their normal day-to-day job. As a result 50% of all Google’s products by 2009 originated from the 20% free time, including Gmail. By giving employees the personal and creative freedom to work and create something they are passionate about allowed the company to thrive in the following years as well as make Google one of the best places to work in the entire world.

However, it is important to understand how Google was able to be successful at doing so. Google established a “people analytics team” to figure out what makes their employees happy now vs. tomorrow.  It’s a work in progress and the answer changes based on the business environment, the economy, and the employees currently in their organization.  It is not an event, but a commitment to people analytics (talent analytics). We will talk more on this with our next post…

linkedin_picSam Fricchione is a Human Resources Consultant for Twinbrook Associates. He is currently completing a Master’s in Behavioral Science at Brown University, where he is active in recruiting and research related to employee performance and productivity.



listening_to_musicAs I am writing this, I have my headphones in listening to Neil Young singing about tin soldiers and Nixon coming, while planning out the most effective way to manage my time. This blog post is only one of many things on my list of things to do today, but I feel confident that I can handle every one of them effectively. The music in my ears is helping to focus my attention on certain tasks, and is allowing me to get more work done in a shorter amount of time.

But how can that be? Shouldn’t listening to music at work be distracting? Many might think that way, but the truth is that by allowing your employees to listen to music while they work may actually increase their performance output and allow for better creative problem solving.

Research has found that music can increase task performance by increasing positive affect (Isen, 1999; Schellenberg, 2001). When employees listen to music while they work, the music evokes a pleasant mood and increases alertness, causing better performance on non-musical tasks. Positive affect, or being in a good mood, can influence the way we organize things in our mind thus influence creativity. Research has demonstrated that people who experienced a positive mood as a result of listening to music showed better creative problem solving than those who did not listen to music and who had a neutral or depressed mood (Isen et al., 1987).

MusicWorks, a collaboration between UK music licensing groups PPL and PRS for Music, reached out to more than 1,000 small- and medium-business owners and learned that more than three-quarters (77 percent) have found that music increases staff morale. Additionally, 65 percent of business owners have found music makes their employees more productive, with 40 percent believing that playing music actually increases sales.

Taking these findings into account, personal audio merchandise used as incentive rewards, including headphones, iPods, and iTunes gift cards, may offer more incentives to increase work performance for recipients. In fact, this new research underscores the business benefits and long-term workplace satisfaction music-oriented rewards can provide.

It is important to note that while music may be beneficial to work performance, employees must remain respectful to co-workers by listening to their music using headphones or at a low volume.

So what does this mean for me? While all company cultures are different, by allowing your employees to freely (and quietly) listen to music while they work, you may significantly increase their creative output, quality of work, and the amount of time spent on each task. Not only will your employees enjoy coming to work more, but they may also help take the company to new heights by simply allowing the free flowing of ideas via music.

So plug in, press play, and allow those good vibes to help with your next project deadline.


Sam Fricchione is a Human Resources Consultant for Twinbrook Associates. He is currently completing a Master’s in Behavioral Science at Brown University, where he is active in recruiting and research related to employee performance and productivity.