In yesterday’s post, we discussed Dan Pink’s TED speech and how social science research indicates that traditional methods of employee motivation are not based on fact and simply don’t work in areas that require problem solving and innovation. Instead, autonomy, mastery and purpose work much better than incentives.

What then do you, as a small business owner, do to motivate employees using these three “incentives” of autonomy, mastery and purpose?

What does this mean to you?

It does mean that your human resources plan will require more thought. Bonuses and pay raises are easy to calculate. Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose: not so much.


1. As much as possible, allow your employees to set their own schedules

2. Watch results more than a time clock: an exceptional employee can produce in 6 hours what an average employee needs 8 to accomplish

3. Include employees in decision making and career direction: ASK them what they WANT to do


1. Acknowledge accomplishments and improvements in skill sets and performance through praise

2. Advance responsibilities of employees as much as possible based on their performance-give them as much responsibility as they seem keen to handle

3. Move them to appropriate positions based on their desires and performance: a technician may be better in sales, an administrative assistant may be better in accounts receivable


1. Even in the most seemingly insignificant task, a service to someone is implied. Make sure YOU understand what these services to others are.

2. Involve customers who are satisfied and why they were satisfied and impacted. A customer whose a/c goes out in 95 degree weather, but who received same day service can speak the humanity of why what your employees do SERVES someone

3. Lead with integrity and your own motivation. Realize that we are all in the business of service-if we are living correctly-and convey this to your staff

Motivating anyone, including employees, vendors and other stakeholders, is a science in and of itself. It isn’t easy and is constantly discussed and studied so if you feel like you are chasing a moving target, you are not alone.

With over 30 years in business, I have the unique “hands-on” experience to help guide you in setting up a human resources plan and structure that works for YOUR type of business. Don’t hesitate to contact me for a free consultation to discuss what I can do for your business.


by Steven Schlagel