The Motivation Mix: Different Strategies for Fostering Positive Security

For cybersecurity teams to achieve their goal of securing information and systems, they must motivate their staff.  Motivation is what causes people to behave in a certain way.  To be an effective motivator, you must understand the various theories and strategies for motivation.  Creating a positive environment in the workplace is also key in motivating employees.

Many theories have been developed to help explain how people are motivated.  These theories are not applicable to any environment, but they do give us a better knowledge of how people are motivated.  Years ago, I wrote another blog on motivation and provided a number of theories.  I provide the list here, but the older blog has descriptions as well.

  • Piece-Rate system
  • The Hawthorne studies
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs
  • Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory
  • Theory X
  • Theory Y
  • Theory Z
  • Reinforcement Theory
  • Equity Theory
  • Expectancy Theory
  • Goal Setting Theory

Seven basic strategies for motivation exist.  Knowing these can make your motivation techniques more effective.

  1. Positive reinforcement
  2. Effective discipline
  3. Treating people fairly
  4. Satisfying employee needs
  5. Setting work-related goals
  6. Restructuring jobs
  7. Basing rewards on job performance

The workplace environment plays a part in the motivation of employees.  A book called “In Search of Excellence” says that there are three essentials for creating an environment where all employees are motivated.  These essentials are fairness, job security, and involvement.

The Minneapolis Gas Company asked 31,000 men and 13,000 women what they desire most from a job.  This study lasted from 1945 to 1965.  The highest rated factors were security, advancement, type of work, and a company to be proud of.

My favorite topic on motivation has always been the stick or carrot question.  Should managers stress what will happen if employees do not meet goals or should they stress what will happen when goals are met and exceeded?  Punishment is the stick and rewards are the carrots.  Of course, I always picture a manager with a stick and a carrot hanging at the end of a string on the stick.  The stick approach is a lot like theory X where it is believed that employees need to be motivated because they do not like to work.  Employees are more satisfied and worked harder when the “carrot” approach is used.

Reward guidelines

With this in mind, let us look at some guidelines to follow when giving rewards.

  • The reward should be quick. If the reward is given soon after the action, the employee and other workers will remember the relation between the action and the reward better.
  • The reward should be significant. If your rewards are not significant, they will not be something to strive for.
  • The goals and rewards must be; known, understandable; and attainable. If people do not know how to get rewards, they will not be able to attain them.
  • The reward must be distinctly and directly related to performance.
  • The reward should be irrevocable.
  • The reward should be compatible with job measurement.  Do not give rewards that are too big or too small for the employee’s position.

There is no simple answer on how to motivate people.  Money can motivate, but money alone is not enough.  Different types of people are motivated in different ways.  Many theories exist to try and explain how people are motivated.  One of the keys to effective management is determining the most effective motivation technique in each situation.



About The Author


Eric Vanderburg

Eric Vanderburg is an author, thought leader, and consultant. He serves as the Vice President of Cybersecurity at TCDI and Vice Chairman of the board at TechMin. He is best known for his insight on cybersecurity, privacy, data protection, and storage. Eric is a continual learner who has earned over 40 technology and security certifications. He has a strong desire to share technology insights with the community. Eric is the author of several books and he frequently writes articles for magazines, journals, and other publications.

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