Developing a motivated workforce
A Nuclear Decommissioning Authority case study

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Page 2: The value of motivation

Motivation refers to the energy and commitment with which an individual or group performs a task or role. It affects almost every aspect of business. At the most basic level, motivated staff work harder. They may get more done in less time which reduces labour costs. This shows in higher productivity for the business.

However, it is not just the level of output that improves. Motivated staff work to higher standards of quality because they care about what they are doing. They learn faster and have more ideas. They are less likely to cause accidents, make mistakes or get involved in conflict.

Motivated workers make a more favourable impact on customers and other stakeholders. They are also less resistant to change and require less supervision. An unmotivated workforce could have a negative impact on the business through:

  • lower productivity
  • more accidents
  • higher rates of absenteeism
  • more conflict
  • less readiness to learn or change
  • more need for supervision.

Achieving a motivated workforce is neither cheap nor easy. However, the expense and effort can be well rewarded. The style of leadership and management associated with a motivated workforce is difficult to copy. This makes motivation a potential source of competitive advantage.

The earliest effort to explain motivation at work was published in 1911 by Frederick Taylor. As an engineer, Taylor saw the need for a scientific approach to improve productivity. His findings led employers to break down work into simple repetitive tasks and to pay workers strictly by results.

While this style of 'scientific management' was very successful in mass production industries (early car assembly is a good example), it is not effective in today's knowledge-based industries. NDA does not employ staff as a 'pair of hands' but needs commitment from the whole person, including their ideas and innovation. The skilled roles its people carry out are complex and often unique.

From his research at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric company in Chicago in the early 1930s, the theorist Elton Mayo concluded that motivation relies on teamwork and the importance of managers taking an interest in the workers. In practice, this requires good communication, an employee involvement in decision making and a focus on the well-being of the workforce.


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Nuclear Decommissioning Authority | Developing a motivated workforce