Management Articles


How to Attract, Keep and Motivate Today's Workforce

By: Gregory P. Smith

Greg Smith's cutting-edge keynotes, consulting, and training programs have helped businesses reduce turnover, increase sales, hire superior people, and deliver better customer service. As President and founder of Chart Your Course International, He has implemented professional development programs for thousands of organizations globally. Greg has authored eight informative books including Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High Turnover to High Retention and 401 Proven Ways to Retain Your Best Employees. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information, visit or call (770) 860-9464.

Today's workplace is different, diverse, and constantly changing. The typical employer/employee relationship of old has been turned upside down. The combination of almost limitless job opportunities and less reward for employee loyalty has created an environment where the business needs its employees more than the employees need the business.

The Five-Step PRIDE Model

Management's new challenge is to transform a high-turnover culture to a high-retention culture. Retaining and motivating workers requires special attention and the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of HR as well as managers and supervisors at all levels. They have to create a work environment where people enjoy what they do, feel like they have a purpose and have pride in the mission of the organization. It requires more time, more skill, and managers who care about people. It takes true leadership.

Managers can improve their leadership position and motivate individuals within their organizations by following the five-step PRIDE model:
  • Provide a positive working environment
  • Recognize, Reward and Reinforce the Right Behavior
  • Involve everyone
  • Develop their skills and potential
  • Evaluate and improve continuously

You don't have to be the highest paying employer to provide a positive and attractive work environment. One of the most important factors is how employees "feel" about the company. Motivated workers are more committed to the job and to the customer. On the other hand, de-motivating workplaces force workers to vote with their feet.

Take for example Rodger McAlister who owns a construction equipment dealership in Kentucky. His turnover is almost nonexistent. His employees and service technicians share a profit-sharing plan that possibly means $700,000 upon retirement. Every year employees celebrate their work anniversary with a cake and receive $100.00 for each year employed. Twice a year employee's children receive a $50 savings bond when they bring in their "all A's" report card. To minimize the we-they syndrome, every Friday employees rotate jobs. The person in the parts department becomes a service technician and visa versa. This builds a stronger team and improves both communication and retention.


Reward and recognition is not just a nice thing to do, but a critical element in the management toolkit. People have a basic human need to feel appreciated and recognition programs help meet that need. The second aspect of this science is management must create consequences for the behavior important for business success.

One of the easiest and most effective recognition programs is "peer recognition."  Peer recognition allows employees to reward each other for doing a good job. It works because employees themselves know whom works hard and deserves recognition. Also, workers may value each other's opinion more than their supervisor's. (Peer pressure) Managers can't be everywhere all the time. Therefore, the employees are in the best position to catch people doing the right things.

Studies show that having workers involved at all levels has a major impact on improving morale and motivation. TD Industries in Dallas, Tex., has a unique way of making its employees feel valued and involved. One wall in the company has the photographs of all employees who have been with the company more than five years. This involvement program goes beyond just photographs, slogans, posters, and HR policies. There are no reserved parking spaces for executives. Everyone uses the same bathrooms and the same water fountains. Everyone is an equal. Maybe that's why TD Industries was listed last year by Fortune magazine as one of the Top 100 Best Companies.


Well-trained employees are more capable and willing to assume greater control and ownership over their jobs. They need less supervision, which frees management for other tasks. Employees are more capable of taking care of customers, which builds stronger customer loyalty. All this leads to better management-employee relationships.

When former Intel executive David House became CEO of Bay Networks, he realized the troubled computer manufacturer's problems involved some basic fundamentals. To solve the problem, he created four courses to teach the practices that he'd set in place at Intel: Decision-Making, Straight Talk, Managing for Results, and Effective Meetings. He personally taught the courses to Bay's 120 highest-ranking executives who, in turn, taught the same courses to the other 6,000 employees.  His personal example had a major impact on the entire company.

Here are some tips for setting up your own processes to help develop the potential of your employees:

  • Explain the “big picture” for the company and how this influences their employment and growth.
  • Provide feedback on the employee's performance. Be specific; mention a particular situation or activity.
  • Make sure they understand the company's expectations.
  • Involve the employee in the decision-making process whenever possible.
  • Listen to their ideas and suggestions.
  • Give them room to do the job without unnecessary restrictions.
  • Pay for employees to attend workshops and seminars.
  • Offer on-site classes where employees can learn new skills or improve upon old ones.
  • Challenge them with lots of responsibility.

Continuous evaluation and never ending improvement is the final step of the PRIDE system. The primary purpose of evaluation is to measure progress and determine what needs improving. Continuous evaluation includes, but is not limited to, the measurement of attitudes, morale, turnover and motivation of the workforce. It includes the identification of problem areas needing improvement and the design and implementation of an improvement plan.

Businesses continue to search for the competitive advantage. It won't be found with gimmicks or within the latest management fad. The true competitive advantage is found within the hearts and minds of motivated people proudly working together and led by people driven by a higher purpose.

© Copyright 2000 Gregory P. Smith

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