Motivating employees is one part science and one part art. Efforts to study employee motivation peaked during World War II when females entered the workplace to take over while men fought the war. Since then, both men and women have entered the field of industrial/organizational psychology, or IOP, to contribute to making the workplace more enjoyable for everyone.
IOP psychology tries to "understand and measure human behavior to improve employees' satisfaction in their work, employers' ability to select and promote the best people, and to generally make the workplace better for the men and women who work there," according to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, or SIOP. IOP psychologists are infused into the workplace, creating tests, designing products and training managers to bolster employee motivation.
Hit the books to obtain a wealth of information on what motivates employees. In fact, the ethical principles of the American Psychological Association, or APA, indicates that IOP psychologists must base all their consulting work on valid research principles. Building on these already established theories, an IOP psychologist may also choose to conduct her own research to identify how the nuances of a workplace might affect employee motivation.
As an IOP psychologist, you might motivate employees by giving them a battery of tests. They may include standardized tests of aptitude to aid in selection and promotion, or they may be tests developed for that workplace alone, to assess your level of skill in a particular job. Once tests are administered, an IOP psychologist will rely on her extensive training to interpret test results in a standardized fashion -- they don't just "eyeball" the results and "shoot from the hip." They seek to correctly place employees to make the workplace more motivating.
An employee's motivation can suffer if there are organizational deficiencies that thwart and frustrate him on a daily basis. IOP psychologists frequently conduct job analyses to identify all job tasks for a particular occupation and how much time it takes to do each tasks. Analyzing results across employees with similar jobs, as well as comparing results to national norms, helps to identify inefficiencies that make employees less than thrilled about coming to work.
Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.