Now and Then: Ways to Motivate and Inspire the Workforce
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Article | Now and Then: Ways to Motivate and Inspire the Workforce
By Stavroula Panagiotaropoulou
HR Consultant & Change Management Consultant
MBA, Strathclyde Business School, Glasgow
There is a period in time when views and the way we stand in front of issues change.
In the 1980’s the so well known until then Traditional Personnel Management was
replaced and developed to HRM. Human Resource Management sought to achieve
excellence in the organization through a committed workforce. This is actually when
HRM gets involved in business decisions and reflects changes in philosophies and
practices with respect to the management of people in organizations.
Now HRM gives great emphasis in strategic issues and on the way in which the
human resource contributes to the achievement of corporate objectives. Being
concerned with the well being of people is seen as a powerful way to motivate
and inspire the workforce.
An important role of HRM within high performance work organizations is the
development of “core” organizational values to inform the strategic direction of the
business (Gennard and Kelly, 1994; Huselid, 1995). In taking this stand HRM is
supporting a particular view of organizational culture, which could be seen as
management driven, where conflict does not exist and common interests prevail.
The challenge for HRM is to reconcile the unitarist perspective with the pluralist
perspective of greater individual and group autonomy. This is where a key concept in
HRM comes in, Organizational Commitment which will be explained furher. It is
one of the 4 C’s in the Harvard Model and amounts to a certain degree of
identification as well as involvement on the part of employees. Employees are more
likely to be committed to their employing organization if they feel confidence in
their employer’s commitment to them, and real commitment is unlikely without
At one time western companies expressed a strong interest in developing the type of
commitment shown by Japanese workers. Theory Z was a unique management
approach by William Ouchi who presented his ideas fully in the 1981 book, Theory Z:
How American Companies Can Meet the Japanese Challenge, this book was among
the best-selling management books in the 1980’s. Theory Z is an approach to
management based upon a combination of American and Japanese management
philosophies and characterized by, among other things, long-term job security,
consensual decision making, slow evaluation and promotion procedures and
individual responsibility within a group context. These would lead to improvements
in organizational performance through a humanistic approach to management. It is
a hybrid management approach combining Japanese management philosophies with
U.S. culture; it opens the Corporate Door for Participative Management.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory helps the manager to understand what motivates
an employee. Theory X and Y by Douglas McGregor as well as Theory Z all play a
role on how a company should manage successfully. Because the Japanese show a
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high level enthusiasm to work, some researchers claim that “Z” stands for “zeal”,
the Greek word. Zeal has the following meanings:
1. Enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal or goal and tireless diligence in its
2. A feeling of strong eagerness (usually in favor of a person or cause)
3. Excessive ferror to do something or to accomplish some end.
4. Passion; great or extreme enthusiasm.
Human beings have the need to belong and they want a strong sentimental drive, the
zeal, to wake them up every morning in order to pursue all those things that are
necessary to render them useful, creative and happy individuals. Among those drivers
and beyond the well known factors such as Trustworthy Leadership, Being Relevant,
Career Advancement, Stable Future, Self-Indulgence, Happiness etc, today’s
employees are motivated to achieve more than ever for the opportunity to create
impact. As employees reflect on their lives and careers, they want to contribute in
ways that measure their achievements based upon the long-term benefits that the
company they serve bears.
Therefore today’s Leaders allow their employees to have sustainable impact on the
work they perform. They allow them to make a mark toward significance. Create
the opportunity for their achievement to leave a long lasting legacy that rewards the
organization they serve and for future generations to learn from, like Bloomberg has
Based on this inner motto and need to feel useful and live a print on the society and
the greater environment we live in, organizations started to move towards corporate
philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS). Both of them help define a
company’s reputation and image and create goodwill with the community and
prospective customers. One step ahead we find impact investing which advocates that
creative investments can play a crucial part in addressing social and environmental
challenges and where investors focus on maximizing impact per dollar or euro
Paying back to our society, paying back to the environment, contributing to the
planet’s well being is becoming as substantial, important and noble for motivating
today’s workforce as it is our life quest and what we leave as we pass from this world.
As collective consciousness emerges, from HRM practices and the well being of
people, we all working people, are seriously interested in and motivated by the
well being of the whole planet.