The Motivation Department

by Sharlyn Lauby on December 10, 2010

An HR pro recently told me, “I’m in charge of employee motivation.”

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble but I’m not sure that (1) any single person or department can be in charge of motivation and (2) the responsibility for employee motivation should belong to human resources.

On some level, aren’t we as individuals in charge of our own motivation?  We should understand what motivates us – who better?  And I don’t mean money, a corporate expense account or the window corner office.  I mean what gets us excited about work; what drives us to do things.

Once we understand what motivates us, then isn’t it our responsibility to tell our manager?  Sometimes I wonder if people get so focused on the money, extra time off and the perks that they forget to tell others what drives them.  Then, the work becomes boring and mundane.  And the company is shocked when an employee decides to leave.  The manager fought hard to get the employee the money and benefits they asked for.  They didn’t know they were supposed to make the work more interesting and exciting – because the employee didn’t tell them.

After an employee shares what motivates them, it becomes part of a manager’s responsibility to make sure the employee gets work assignments that motivate them.  Now this might not be all day, every day.  Maybe it’s a special project or a particular task.  But managers create work every day.  Making sure they match the work with the individuals who are motivated to do it is essential.

Where I would see human resources stepping in is to encourage managers and employees to have the conversation about what motivates them.  And helping managers design work that will motivate employees.  But I’m not sure that translates into being “in charge” of motivation.

Over the years, the responsibility for employee motivation has become a rather philosophical debate.  Tell me your thoughts:

Who is ultimately in charge of employee motivation?

What role should HR play, if any, when it comes to employee motivation?

I’m interested to hear your comments on this.

Image courtesy of Amy Loves Yah

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