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The Power of Motivation

Discerning what utility employees consider important.

Fortnightly Magazine - January 2012

cross-functionally, and take action from those closest to the job or customer.”

Xcel provides a best-practice example of taking action based on employee input. For instance, an ergonomics strategy is being implemented throughout the system, as a result of suggestions from power plant and distribution field employees to improve body mechanics and prevent many of the strains and sprains they otherwise experience. Two contracted ergonomic physical therapists are working with employees to find opportunities for improvement.

Meaningful Involvement: Although safety remains at the top of what is most important to utility employees, more than 70 percent report active involvement in the design, planning, and implementation of work projects provides the incentive for remaining committed to exceptional performance. Employees continually want to be part of the process, to feel as if their ideas are valued, and their efforts are making a difference.

A study of 425 employees at Baltimore Gas & Electric shows they consistently want “to be part of significantly contributing to the overall health and success of BG&E.” Once management shifts the focus from passive engagement to actively involving others, there are endless opportunities for employees to help make changes that improve performance and increase the quality of work life.

Sincere Appreciation: In addition to the desire to be actively involved, employees repeatedly say that acknowledgement and support for their contribution is an essential part of creating a motivated work team. While the power of appreciation is no great revelation, it’s surprising how seldom employees say they receive positive feedback on their performance. A recent Gallup Poll of over 4 million employees shows that consistently building a culture of gratitude, recognition and praise increases loyalty, productivity, and safety.

Paul Grimes, Nicor Gas supervisor of field operations, says he’s a strong believer in the balancing of performance expectations and appreciation. “Showing appreciation fosters an environment of attentiveness, which provides employees a sincere assessment of their efforts,” he says.

Leaders have a responsibility to identify and reward successes, or as author Ken Blanchard says, “Catch ’em doing it right.” Everyone has a basic desire to feel that what they do has meaning. The power of sincere appreciation and praise is a primary driver of individual and team performance. Employees regularly report the need to feel valued for not only what they can do, but for who they are as individuals.

Inspiring Trust and Loyalty: With the exception of safety, no other potential motivator generates more passion than discussions about the importance of a trusting relationship between employees and management. When listening to employees talk about how effective leaders earn trust, it becomes clear that loyalty and trust are so emotionally linked that without one, the other simply doesn’t exist. Successful leaders know the ability to inspire loyalty and build trust defines their relationship with employees. Author and industry consultant Alan Lindsay says, “Trust is the last thing you get and the first thing you lose.” Sadly, when employees no longer trust their leaders to do what they say they’re going to do, the bond of faith and respect might be