Employee Monetary Systems: The Past or Future in Employee Motivation

By Mullen, Paul | Industrial Management, November/December 1993 | Go to article overview

Employee Monetary Systems: The Past or Future in Employee Motivation


Mullen, Paul, Industrial Management


I have been an industrial engineer for the past eight years. In the performance of my duties, I work closely with the floor worker and in essence, I relay his or her message to upper management.

For the past three years, I have worked for a textile manufacturer that makes bleached or dyed material into T-shirts or sweat shirts. When I accepted my position as the industrial engineering manager, I had no idea what I was up against. The company had instituted a bonus program several years before my arrival.

In my past assignments, whenever I changed a work standard, there was opposition, especially if the worker was required to produce more units for the same 100 percent efficiency. In the end, we could still work together to the betterment of the company.

Unfortunately, now that money was involved, I was trapped into an environment that became hostile beyond reason.

Several examples will help prove my point. For example, I was summoned to the floor because one of the operators was angry over the fact that her group only made $32 per individual while the other shifts averaged about $100 each. Upon our discussion, we discovered that she was not filling out her paperwork correctly. She became enraged. I told her that she was putting too much emotion into this bonus system. She began to cry openly. She kept repeating that the bonus system was not fair and that she cheated her other coworkers out of money by filling out the paperwork incorrectly.

I also was summoned by production management to study an area where the work standards were considered loose. One operator with more than 25 years experience stated as I entered the work area, "We know why you are down here. You are down here to (take money from us.)"

Still there were other workers who did well under the bonus system and loved it. Their only fear was that management would take the bonus system out.

This left me in a perplexed state. I was determined to do good, but how? I had just entered a doctoral program and decided to do my dissertation on finding out the answer behind employee motivation. The following is a brief description of my results from the last two years of research.

PROBLEM

What motivation system, in its inherent design, is capable of motivating the American worker through their own free will to produce above their normal work performance potential?

Are individual monetary systems used to improve worker productivity able to increase worker efficiency? This is the central question raised by this study. And if so, are there any tradeoffs in using money as a motivating tool?

With this, I set out to find the answer. I read several hundred books and journal articles believing that at least one book could offer me the solution. And while I didn't truly find it, this is what I did find out.

Motivation is defined as an inner drive that causes one to act. Employee motivation causes one to abandon their own goals for the goals of the organization. The key issue is how to have the employee abandon their own goals for that of the organization's goals. Five subheadings were derived at in explaining employee motivation. Each subheading is interrelated and builds on the previous section's work.

THE TASK AS A MOTIVATIONAL TOOL

Frederick Taylor is known as the father of time studies. Taylor was inspired to write his most famous book, The Principles of Scientific Management, to argue for a better method to induce workers to work harder through higher pay, rather than through special pay incentive systems that offered the workers the ability to cheat for their pay. Taylor pointed out that there needs to be a correlation between the worker and management. Management must take non-controllable burdens of the worker' s back and allow the worker the chance to perform the task asked of him or her. It is management working with the employee in developing the most efficient task that will ensure continuity and harmony with the worker. …

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