Research Highlights

Motivating Employees to Give 110 Percent

By Steven Blader, Associate Professor of Management and Organizations
When the going gets tough, the inspired get going. In times of economic stress, how do you inspire your employees to go the extra mile?

According to NYU Stern Professor Steven L. Blader, the incentives have to be hard-wired into your company from the get-go.

Employees work harder when they feel connected to the values and mission of their work group and of the company as a whole. The company has great power to motivate its employees if it can help them develop social identities that are grounded in the organization and their own teams, writes Blader in his research paper, “How to Inspire Motivation.”

Two factors influence the development of those social identities, both of which within the company’s power.

The first is whether employees view the company’s procedures as equitable. If everybody is treated fairly, and there is so-called procedural justice in the way decisions are made, workers are more inclined to embrace their roles as members of the organization.

And then there’s money and benefits. If employees are compensated in a way they consider fair, they’re more likely to pull for the team, in lean as well as flush times. In this area, the carrot works substantially better than the stick.

One caveat: management not only must implement the motivational tools, it must publicize their existence internally. “The key to successfully applying any of these insights is doing it loud and clear,” says Blader.