Security Leadership and Management

Motivation in the Security Workplace

July 1, 2011
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What does it take to motivate today’s security officer? If you know, please tell me. I have tried to get the most from every worker I encounter. When I fail, I cannot help but wonder what is wrong with my approach or with me. I’m open to new ideas and will read what the latest experts have to say. Lately, I have been motivated to try the suggestions from two authors who wrote books on motivation and human nature: one book by Daniel Pink titled “Drive - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” is a look beyond the traditional carrot and stick approach. The other is by Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria and is titled “Driven How Human Nature Shapes our Choices.” I think motivation and choices are two inseparable concepts.

Each author wants to reveal what motivates us. Pink discusses how to motivate, while Lawrence talks about what drives us. If we as leaders can understand how people are driven and also address what motivates our workforce, I think we have a better chance of getting the results we want, and make them last. I also feel the two books, aside from being similarly titled, have approached motivation in human nature in two distinct ways that compels me to try to make them work together. 

Pink’s book takes the position that the long-standing model of motivation called “Motivation 2.0” is based on rewards and punishment and is out-dated for our current state of our workers evolution. The Henry Ford Era of work for wages is not what people are looking for today. We are a people of intrinsic motivation – do work for the value of the work itself. Today, 70 percent of work is heuristic (the work can’t be done by a checklist). This is work that requires thoughtful and creative efforts. 

The other 30 percent of today’s work remains algorithmic and requires only a checklist to get the work accomplished. This work is capable of being outsourced or automated. I bet you think you already know where the security officer’s duties fall, or at least has fallen, since Henry Ford needed someone to watch the front gate. When you reach beyond Motivation 2.0, you approach workers who use autonomy to get their work done. That thought can scare the typical security manager, but if you give the lower-level leaders control over their time, task, technique and team, you can grow some super security officers. Give the team leader a goal – reduce thefts in the parking garage, increase employee escorts or whatever is important to you.

Driven describes the four drives present in all humans: The drive to Acquire, Bond, Learn and Defend. When we as leaders focus on one drive, the other drives are left lacking and thus leaving the worker unfulfilled. Leaders can help motivate workers by helping them achieve in the drives they are lacking. A good example that fits this theory is after I raised pay for security officers by 20 percent to try to get better performance, I found it spiked and then dropped. I even got some poor reviews in employee surveys – a shock to me! Now I am including the officers during in-depth tabletop exercises to teach building and area tactics, which are the same used by police in the state. Motivation is back on the rise. As I satisfy one drive (drive to acquire) I have to address another (drive to learn). I suspect I’ll need to keep addressing the basic drives to keep the motivation I need from each officer.

While this short description of these two theories on human behavior is nowhere near comprehensive, it brings up points to think about when we as security leaders are trying and many times failing, to motivate the security officer. If you have tried and are back to the carrot and stick model, I suggest you make another attempt and try it a new way. 

Initially, you have to think of the security officer’s job as heuristic – remember creative, no checklists. Yes, get rid of the checklists and journals and post orders (you may have keep them in your desk for the liability lawyers). Send your shift leaders out with just a goal of what you want done do not tell how to do it. The rounds he/she has to complete during that shift becomes their unique one-of-a-kind effort. Give them the opportunity to make the rounds that fulfills their need to have autonomy. Before they can make art you have to give them the tools to do the job – training. I have yet to have someone apply for the security position who came to me with a degree in security and a life long ambition to be the best security officer possible. At best, I have gotten a person that is clean, reliable and honest. The rest we are supposed to provide in 24 hours of training.

Each new security contractor or employee comes to us with all four drives (Acquire, Bond, Learn and Defend). We can attempt to influence each one of them if we think about it. The drive to acquire is why they are here – they need the money. If that drive is satisfied then you must focus on a different drive. The drive to bond can be satisfied by making that drive a bigger part of the workplace by creating a team environment and sense of belonging. I’m guilty from time to time of treating our 130 man contracted security force like they were contractors and not employees. I always end up regretting it. We can see the drive to learn each time we conduct drills or timed responses – officers striving to do the best they can as evaluators watch. If you’re not drilling (exercising) your officers, you are missing the opportunity to motivate. The drive to defend is what makes a security officer effective. His/her role is crime prevention. To have successfully defended an employee’s or customer’s personal safety or property is a very satisfying achievement for the officer. Don’t miss the chance to highlight these successes in front of their peers. That motivation is free and powerful.

Our drives are evolving as our workplace and our society evolves, but we continue to be driven by our basic needs. Understanding this can help you motivate your workforce to higher levels of performance.  

Gaining Insight: What Employee Opinion Surveys Can Tell You

Clients often ask me how to ensure that employees understand and accept the changes that are necessary as companies grow and expand. My simple answer to that question is “ask them.” That easy answer invariably leads to the next question – “How?”

Leading organizations see the value in gathering feedback from employees when implementing changes. Who better to give leaders valuable information about the impact that organizational strategies and initiatives might have than those on the front lines? Employees have first hand knowledge of their jobs and are often keenly aware of what needs to change to achieve better results for the organization.

Employee opinion surveys can help organizations:

  • Identify and address barriers to productivity and efficiency
  • Determine employee understanding and perception of policies and human resources programs
  • Pinpoint motivators that are most desirable to employees (incentives, bonuses, special assignments, time off with pay, training and development, flexible work schedules)
  • Identify training needs
  • Determine areas of communication breakdown and team conflict
  • Predict responses to organizational change
  • Uncover the source of morale and turnover problems

Employee surveys can be an effective means of gaining a better understanding of how and to what extent employees are affected by issues in the work environment. They can provide insight and guidance as you develop solutions to organizational problems that hamper your employees’ ability to thrive and perform at their best every day.  Employee opinion surveys are not just a tool to uncover organizational weaknesses and problem areas. Organizations can also gain positive insight from conducting surveys. In fact, well written surveys offer organizations an opportunity to gather employee input under several circumstances. Employee surveys may be:

Conducted annually to gauge employee satisfaction

  • Driven by an event like a change initiative, the introduction of a new product or service, or an expansion into a particular market
  • Used to gather feedback on a new technology or benefit program
  • Conducted frequently to determine the impact of change over a period of time

Employee surveys benefit both the organization’s leaders and employees. With the opportunity to express their opinions, employees feel that leaders value their ideas, needs, and concerns. Often, teamwork and customer service improves and absenteeism and employee turnover decrease. By assessing the results of an employee survey, leaders can gain a clear perspective of the views at various employee levels and a better insight into the interpersonal dynamics throughout the organization.

It should be made clear that employee opinion surveys are not a substitute for day-to-day conversations that leaders have with employees. Employees who have good relationships with their managers or supervisors and who feel their voices are heard are more likely to share their opinions and views openly.
 

About the Author:

Wendy Phaneuf is a professional speaker and author and a global expert in employee motivation and retention. Phaneuf is also the Founder of The Training Source and www.LeadingforLoyalty.com — a one-stop information source that helps leaders and their organizations enhance employee motivation and retention.

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