I work with a lot of human resources professionals who try to figure out how to get the best out of their employees.
There is real science behind recognizing and rewarding people at work. My friend Paul Hebert has good advice. I love my friends at Modern Survey and BlackbookHR. Check out their blogs. Globoforce has great things to say, too.
But by and large, I think much of the talk around employee engagement and motivation is garbage. You can’t bring democracy to Iraq and Afganistan, and you can’t trick an employee into doing her job well. She either does it well or she doesn’t. There are best practices around motivation and commitment, but there is also a wall. Only she can choose to climb it. Nurture that puppy all you want, but her potential is rooted in experiences she’s had very early in life. Her performance is up to her.
Now of course it’s important to recognize, reward, praise and compensate people in a manner that’s evolved beyond the old-world management techniques of the late 1980s; however, let’s not pretend that your HR function is the mom, the CEO is the dad, and your employees are children.
Your employees have children, and I think they’ll do great work for you if you start with fair pay and equal opportunity. Most companies aren’t even there, yet.