Term Paper: Motivation and Incentives in the Workplace

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Human Resource Management and Motivation

Strategic human resource management or SHRM has been defined as the pattern of planned human resource deployments and activities aimed t the attainment of organizational goals (Wright 1992). It is a macro approach to viewing the function of human resource management in the larger organization and, in this respect, differentiates it from traditional human resource management or HRM. It is woven around a short-term focus on business needs, called strategy, and described as "a set of processes and activities jointly shared by human resources and line managers in solving people-related business problems." It links human resource management to that strategy and emphasizes the coordination among these practices. But owing to the applied nature of SHRM, it lacks a theoretical foundation necessary in predicting and understanding the impact of human resource practices on the functions of the organization (Wright). Experts assume that particular institutional processes may shape HR practices: those imposed or coerced by governments or companies upon acquired subsidiaries; authorized or legitimized practices by an organization seeking the approval of a regulating entity, as in the case of hospitals and colleges seeking accreditation from external agencies; practices that conditions of reward from outside agents elicit; practices that evolve or are acquired by one organization from other organizations so as to appear legitimate or up-to-date; and practices that become institutionalized through the adoption of other practices at the start of operations (Wright).

Human resource professionals need something concrete to stand on and direct them in their decision-making and performance in the 21st century. This was the goal of a study conducted by Towers Perrin in comparing the views of the IBM human resource managers with those of close to 3,000 HR professionals, line managers, faculty and consultants from 12 countries (Overman 1992). The findings of the study revealed the priorities, which these business professionals considered necessary in competing in the current century. The majority saw HR management as going though "the throes of a radical transformation" from a specialized stand-alone type to a broad, corporate competency wherein HR and line managers sew in partnerships in gaining competitive advantage and attaining overall business objectives. For this to occur, HR policies must be responsive to market conditions and structures of global enterprises, be closely tied up with strategic business plans, jointly conceived and pursued by line and HR managers and focused on quality, customer service, productivity, employee involvement, teamwork and workforce flexibility (Overman).

The Society for Human Resource Management surveyed 551 HR professionals on the 187 benefits their companies provided (Work and Family Newsbrief, 2002). The subjects said that the economy did not have much impact on them. Among their work-life benefits, 70% were offered flexible spending accounts. Flexible scheduling was considered a benefit offered by 2/3 of the respondents. Those with telecommuters increased slightly from 37-41%. Those with compressed work-weeks also went up by a few points. Emergency and sick child care benefit, however, substantially went down from 13% in the previous year to 9% during the year of the survey. Onsite childcare centers offered up to 6%, eldercare increased slightly from 19% to 21%. Other benefits offered by surveyed respondents were summer camp at 7%, foster care assistance at 6%, school care at 4% and 24/7 childcare. Prominently missing was paid maternity leave, which should have been considered a short-term disability. It even decreased by 27% in the five years preceding the survey year (Work and Family Newsbrief).

Time was when HR professionals acted like traffic policemen, ensuring compliance to their laws and regulations. HR function now extends to helping the organization derive the most the best out of its workforce through a new method called Competency-Based Human Resource Management in managing skills and talent (Rivenbank 2004). It no longer concentrates on job and task description but focuses on individual qualities that make employees exemplary. Experts note that there have been inaccuracies or mismatches between employee capabilities and his job description. They then suggest a revaluation of jobs according to needed competencies rather than according to tasks. Dubois (as qtd in Rivenbank) defines competencies as "characteristics used to achieve desired performance." The competency-based approach is applied to job categories during recruitment and selection, training and performance management (Rivenbank).

Senior human resource officers listed and discussed the challenges they confront in the incoming years. These are pay equity, the value of human resource, unity as against diversity, innovation and global sensitivity (Minehan 1997). This was the summary of their remarks made at a symposium of Human Resource Officers in 1997. President and CEO Michael R. Losey of SHRM emphasized that executive compensation will continue to be an area of conflict within the organization unless it is moved back to a fairer distribution in order to make sense to employees. Retired Pfizer Inc. corporate vice president Bruce Ellig suggested linking pay throughout the organization, including the lower ranks. He said that Pfizer is a pioneer in granting stock options to employees for more than 40 years. United Parcel Service also allows company stock for full-time and part-time employees to buy, as a consequence of their policy to increase employee involvement and to improve customer service. Lucent Technologies, Inc., on the other hand, sold 100 stock options to every employee as the company focus and to develop ownership behaviors among all employees of all levels, according to Alan Ritchie, vice president of compensation and benefits.

HR officers have been educating senior management on the value HR contributes to the organization. The same awareness, recognition and support by other levels of the organization will also be elicited (Minehan 2004). Herbert Z. Wong sounded a stronger call for unity than diversity as the easier concept to buy or foster in the workplace. He said that unless zero-tolerance policies on diversity are accompanied by education, training programs and changes in workplace culture, diversity issues, such as racism and sexism, will simply be driven underground, and changes for intervention at earlier phases will be lost. Human resource professionals will also be increasingly expected to become leaders of innovation in the organization. Markets keep growing and become more competitive, new ideas and methods that will differentiate one organization from another require hiring employees with innovative thinking skills. HR must also prove to be a conducive environment to learning organizations, which will provide employees with continuous development and training opportunities in order to respond to future challenges for success (Minehan).

In the same symposium, SHRM CEO Mike Losey stressed the primary need of HR professionals for global sensitivity (Minehan 1997) and a global mindset. Trends show that the economies of China, the Pacific Rim and South America are growing at double-digit rates. U.S. corporations must increase the share of their resources for non-U.S. markets. HR managers need to tune in on the cultural and business practices of other countries and drop a pose of assumed superiority of American business practices.

Motivational speaker Bob Nelson believes that present-day employees are more motivated by a personal expression of gratitude and appreciation than an increase in pay (Klaff 2003). He lists and shares the 10 top ways of motivating the workforce: 1) thank the employee for doing a good job and do so face-to-face, in writing or both, early, often and sincerely; 2) take as much time to meet and listen to employees as they need or want; 3) transmit specific feedback on each employee's performance to the employee himself or herself, the department and the organization; 4) develop an open, trusting and enjoyable work environment; 5) let employees know how the company makes and loses money and about competitors and the company's competing strategies, and how each employee fits into the plan and setup; 6) involve employees in decision-making, because decisions affect them; 7) create in them a sense of ownership of their work and the work environment; 8) recognize, reward and promote good performers and deal with low performers by improving or firing them; 9) give employees a chance to grow and learn new skills and offer them assistance in meeting their organization-related-and-oriented goals; and 10) build individual and team morale in meetings and activities, acknowledge and celebrate successes on the individual, departmental and organizational levels (Klaff).

Nelson holds that the best motivation must come from within, because most jobs are not motivating on their own. Retail jobs and customer service are routine, mechanical or pressuring because they are repetitive (Klaff 2003). Managers or HR managers must make sure that the employee's duty or job supports or contributes to his or her career goal. Meaningful rewards to this type of tasks that accrue to one's career goal will motivate the employee. According to Nelson, some managers do not give rewards because they do not have the time, their employees did not appreciate previously given rewards, and employees might take advantage of them. Nelson shared with them financial records of increased turnover among organizations that did not reward employees for their good performance. He notes that rewarding employees is easy, inexpensive and has lasting impact. He concludes… [END OF PREVIEW]

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