Personally knowing the workers is a motivational key

Font Size
Rey Elbo

In The Workplace

You’ve been talking about employee motivation for some time now. But exactly, what is the first step that we in management must do to make it happen. Is there a prerequisite? Does it have something to do with managers being generous all the way to earn their trust? I hope not. Please clarify. —  Yellow Submarine.

There’s one cute little story that I’m fond of using whenever I teach people managers about employee motivation. No doubt about it, everyone needs recognition for his or her accomplishment. One little boy was no exception to this general rule. One lazy Sunday morning, he said to his father: “Dad, let’s play darts. I’ll throw, and even if I don’t hit the target, you should say — “Wonderful! That’s great!”

Sometimes, even if people don’t deserve it with an average performance, they expect their managers to commend them. But you’re right to ask your question. And my answers have nothing to do with management being forced to give in to the request of their people.

A prerequisite, off the top of my head, is earning the trust of people. This is too basic to be ignored by managers. Even if you’re paying your people with above-average pay and perks in your industry, you can’t simply earn their trust with material things, assuming that your organization can afford it.

In fact, my more than 35 years in people management tell me that you can even motivate people using only non-cash rewards and recognition. Really, money is not everything. I’ve seen workers being hardworking and loyal to their bosses and organization — simply because they’re being treated well.

And so, how would you treat your workers well enough for them to appreciate it? First things first, you have to know your direct reports on a personal level. After all, how can you engage and motivate people if you know nothing about them, their career aspirations, their future plans, and other related concerns?

Sir William John Anthony Timpson, Chairman of the UK shoe repair chain that bears his name, has put forward the following test to challenge managers as to how much they know about their team. Timpson, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in June 2017, is quoted by Michael Rose in the latter’s 2011 book — A Guide to Non-Cash Reward.

Timpson challenges managers on how well they know about their workers by answering the following question: “Do you know the following (personal) details about your workers?” Try the following 13-item test for size and give yourself honest points representing your answer, with five, 10 and 20 as the maximum points for each item.

If you know the answer, then give yourself the full point of five, ten or 20 as the case maybe. On the other hand, if you don’t know the answer, give yourself zero points, with a little adjustment up to three or four points depending on how well you guessed. Don’t delay. No need to look at your cheat sheet or the workers’ personnel folders. There are no right or wrong answers, but an honest appreciation of how well you personally know your direct reports. Let’s start: Do you know your workers’ age and birthday? (0-5)

Do you know their exact home address? Do you know the name of their spouse or partner? (0-10)

How about their children’s names, ages, and schools? (0-20) When and where did your workers go on a vacation last year? (0-10) Where are they planning to go for their next vacation or holiday? (0-5) What is their main hobby? (0-10)

How about their spouses’ or partners’ hobbies? (0-5) How well do you know the career history of your workers? (0-10) How about your workers’ qualifications and diplomas? (0-5) How about the health and medical condition of your workers? (0-5) What model is their car or what mode of transport do they use? (0-5) What are your workers’ parents’ names? (0-5)

The maximum score you can get is 100 points. Done? If so, add up all of your points. Timpson suggests that if you score less than 70 points, you don’t know your people well enough. On the other hand, if you know your workers more than enough, it would be easy for you to motivate them by giving non-cash awards or gifts that will be surely appreciated.

For example, if your worker’s hobby is reading detective stories, then gift him with one bestseller that he will appreciate. Just be sure that you don’t duplicate his library with another set. Little things mean a lot to many people, and what’s important — management need not spend big money for it.

Join us in our Jan. 24, 2018 public seminar on “How and Why Management Lost its Labor Cases in 2017” at Makati Diamond Residences. Noted labor law experts — Attys. Francis V. Sobrevinas and E. (Leo) D. Battad of the UP College of Law will analyze the newly established jurisprudence for people managers. Send an e-mail to or call (02) 846-8951 or mobile 0915-406-3039.