Web Hunter: Free web resources for employee motivation

July 18, 2007
Motivation is a key tool for any manager in any profession. Take a look at these Web resources from Russ Kratowicz that might get you and your staff fired up to do something about something. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.

We’re hearing regular reminders that the civilized and industrial world is going to end abruptly and very soon. The reason claimed is that nobody wants to step up and takeover the jobs being vacated by those of significant intrinsic worth who are now retiring and bailing out of the rat race they’ve built for themselves over so many years.

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If that’s true, then it seems either there’s something inherently wrong with those jobs in the first place or the logical candidates who could fill those slots lack sufficient motivation. But, it can’t be the jobs, can it? It must be insufficient motivation.

One of the nice things about the hard sciences is that jargon words mean exactly what they mean, without nuance or ambiguity. You’re not going to find engineers arguing over the definition of sine wave, tensile strength, horsepower or other equally tangible constructs. That’s how we communicate across cultures and time.

As you explore the motivation-based Web sites highlighted here, though, keep in mind that many of them use the language of psychology. You’re going to be seeing a new world of jargon that might make comprehension difficult for a techie. Persevere. Learn something. Remember that most upper-level corporate leaders have a liberal arts background.

So, take a deep breath while we submerge into the morass we call the Web in search of practical, zero-cost, noncommercial, registration-free Web resources that might get you and your staff fired up to do something about something. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.

Teaching on the plant floor

The inexorable pressures of global competition demand that you hire the best person you can find and then train the bejeepers out of them just so their performance might let you break even in the evolving industrial landscape. The trick is motivating people to embrace the idea of continuing education without you having to resort to bribes or a baseball bat. Instead, play the role of coach or teacher.
To get in the mood, teach your mouse to go to http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/ and have it enter the term “motivation” in the search bar. This should return, among other things, a link called “Educational Psychology Interactive: Motivation.” When you click that one, you get another page called “Motivation to Learn: An Overview.” That’s where my recommended content resides. It appears to be part of an educational psychology initiative aimed at those going into the teaching profession. Its author, Dr. William G. (Bill) Huitt, is a member of the Department of Psychology, Counseling and Guidance at Valdosta State University in Georgia. Here’s where you can find the factors that give rise to the elusive phenomenon of motivation. You can learn possible reasons a person appears to lack motivation. You’ll learn about the two categories of actions that a teacher can use to motivate a class to get motivated. It’s a link-rich page that should keep you amused for some time.

A tutorial

Accel-Team.com is a British consulting firm from Cumbria, U.K., that claims to help clients improve profitability through training and development resources designed to foster the most effective application of manpower, machines and materials. The company’s Web site offers several online tutorials that support its stated mission. One of them even addresses this month’s topic: “Employee motivation: Theory and practice” is a four-part article buried in the other content. You access this tidbit by going to www.accel-team.com/motivation and clicking the appropriate links found in the left column. When you get to the bottom of the first installment, click the link to advance to the second, etc, etc. In fact, many of the individual articles you can access on the left side of the screen are daisy-chained to the next. If you’re sufficiently motivated, you can spend quite a bit of time at this site reading about the soft sciences.

Source of a theory

Frederick Herzberg was one of the big names in motivational theory. His big claim was that any on-the-job satisfaction and dissatisfaction you might display or feel arises from different factors. It’s not a case of one feeling being the opposite of the other. If the concept seems hard to grasp, you should spend some time with Alan Chapman, in Leicester, U.K. He has a Web site, Businessballs.com, which seeks to provide the resources you need to improve your personal and organizational development in an ethical, practical, innovative, compassionate and enjoyable manner. One of Chapman’s Web pages is dedicated to Herzberg. In it, Chapman explains why the so-called opposites view is wrong and discusses the possible factors involved with the correct interpretation of motivational success. You can check it out at www.businessballs.com/herzberg.htm. Before you leave the site, though, I’d recommend that you scroll down the left frame and read the less ponderous bit about the air traffic controllers.

Personal coach

Too many times, motivational consultants are a bit heavy-handed in trying to hammer home whatever they’ve been hired to teach. Add a little jargon and some obviously made-up words, and it’s unlikely that even the most attentive disciple will comprehend, much less stay awake. That seems to be the marketing weakness that Pavla Michaela Polcarova, founder of CPR Coaching Services in Vancouver, British Columbia, has identified and eliminated from her approach to motivating people to do what needs to be done. You can see what I mean if you go to www.cprcoaching.com/articles and scroll down to the section titled “Articles on Motivation, Change and Problem Solving.” These are short pieces, most of which are written according to a formula or template. She relates a vignette about some event in her life and picks it apart to extract the operative principle. Then she might show how it applies to the bigger world of business and personal success. With several articles, you really can’t tell where she’s going with the story until it’s upon you. In any case, it’s a soft sell with underlying principles that ring true to this skeptic.

The best organization

We found some academicians who argue that knowledge generation and transfer are essential elements of a competitive advantage. So, they explore the kinds of motivation (intrinsic or extrinsic) and organizational form you should use if you want to generate and transfer tacit knowledge, as opposed to explicit knowledge. “Working Paper No. 27 - Motivation, Knowledge Transfer, and Organizational Form,” by Margit Osterloh and Bruno S. Frey at the Institute for Empirical Research in Economics at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, has 44 pages of quintessential scholarly work. It’s possible you might want to have your business management dictionary handy to help extract the wisdom the pair presents for your edification. Anyway, the paper says that explicit knowledge can be coded in writing or symbols, but people acquire and store their own tacit knowledge. This last type can’t be transferred and it’s the source of competitive advantage that plants should nurture. As a bonus, you’ll learn that some of this discussion holds implications for parents trying to coax appropriate behavior from children. So, head over to www.iew.unizh.ch/wp/iewwp027.pdf and settle in. The only problem with this Web citation is that Figure 1 is missing from the file, and I was unable to locate another version of the paper that contained the missing image.

Have an adventure

Motivation Tool Chest is the work product of Captain Bob Webb, a big believer in the power of self-education. If you take the time to read his bio on the next Web site, you’ll see evidence of the motivation that kept him going on this great adventure we call life. The tool chest at www.motivation-tools.com is mentioned because it might have something you’ll be able to use in your own life adventure. To say the site is colorful is an understatement. Because the formatting is a bit distracting, I suggest you simply click on “Table of Contents” when the home page loads. That calms down the visual activity and turns it into a line-item listing. Then, scroll down to “Motivation in the Workplace,” but don’t click on that phrase. If you do, everything reverts to the unnecessarily ornate format. Instead, simply click on the titles of the individual articles. When you’re done reading the piece, click on the TOC link at the top of each article. There’s a lot to see, too much to list here, so you’ll have to explore on your own. Make it an adventure.

Calling all motivators

That famous eight-year research project at Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works in Chicago back in the late 1920s revealed interesting things about worker productivity and the working environment. The researcher’s original thesis was that there’s a direct and positive correlation between lighting intensity and worker output. Close, but no cigar. Analysis of the results showed that the subjects varied their output according to certain unexpected motivating factors, the details of which I’ll leave for your reading pleasure. My thesis, on the other hand, is that there’s a parallel between building electromechanical telephone switchgear and performing plant maintenance and engineering tasks in the digital world. If you wish to explore some information about the original study, place a mouse call to www.referenceforbusiness.com and click on the following sequence of links: “Encyclopedia of Business,” “Gov-Inc,” and “Hawthorne Experiments.” If you take the lessons they learned at Western Electric and use your imagination, there’s no doubt that you could affect maintenance productivity in your own plant today. And you wouldn’t need to fiddle with the lighting to do it.


Time poverty is a curse. The hectic work life that most plant professionals lead can cause feelings of inadequacy and guilt. The root cause is the infernal to-do list, the one that’s impossibly long and, consequently, never completely wiped out. No doubt yours has line items that have been there for a long, long time and you see no conceivable way of ever getting on them. Is this a case of procrastination? I don’t know your situation, but the stress that comes from knowing there’s something you should have done already and the realization there’s probably someone monitoring your accomplishments has produced many an ulcer and Excedrin headache. If that’s what’s bugging you, take heart. Run, don’t walk, to read “Good and Bad Procrastination,” by Paul Graham, who is, among other things, an essayist in Cambridge, Mass. Graham distinguishes among the varieties of procrastination and his arguments make sense. They might even make a good defense against critiques about how you use your time on the job. If you get around to it, pop over to www.paulgraham.com/procrastination.html and gather the pearls of wisdom you’ll find there. Before you leave, though, read another of his essays, the one tagged as “say.html.”

The portal

Woopidoo.com is a site that bills itself as the motivational business portal. You decide whether this is truly heavy-duty business stuff. As part of its offering, you’ll find a string of articles of mixed quality that might be useful if you’re in need of an decaffeinated lift in the middle of some stressful or down day. Michael Dylan, Chris Widener, Dorene Lehavi, Brent Filson and several other authors have each provided articles with titles such as:

  • "Secrets of Successful Teams"
  • "Changing Habits"
  • "The Top Six Ways to Stay Motivated"
  • "Living Without Limits"

They’re all relatively short and punchy - the longer ones run to only about 1,200 words. You’ll find this material buried at www.woopidoo.com and need only click on the "Motivational" link found near the top in the section called "Business & Finance Articles."

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