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How Do I Motivate My Employees?

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I get this question more than you can imagine. What can I do to motivate my employees? I truly believe it is impossible to motivate someone just by talking to them or sending them to a class or workshop. Sure, someone may talk to your team for a few hours and get them hyped up to do something better or differently for a few weeks or even if you are lucky, maybe a few months. But, unless something in their work environment changes, they will eventually revert to their normal habits and go back to doing whatever they have been doing previously.  Changing someone’s method of work not only requires information, it also requires practice, repetition and eventually must become a routine, or a habit in performance in their daily tasks.  The longer a person has been at a job, the more difficult it is to change their behavior.

When I get emails or phone calls asking me if there is something I offer that will help get their employees more motivated. I may get a request to present a class on “Increasing Sales,” “Being more customer focused” or improving “Soft Skills,” I usually respond with a few questions. The first question is, “What is it that they are not doing well, or what is it that you want them to do better?” The second question is “Do your employees believe they need training to become more motivated to do what you want?”

Business managers need to understand that just because you send someone to training for something does not necessarily mean they will change their behavior or that they will become more motivated to do so. The person attending training must want to learn, must want to be personally motivated to change and they must recognize and believe that they need to improve in something and want to learn how. If a person does not believe they have a deficiency in something, they will not seek out help. So as a result, if you try to tell someone that they are not doing something correctly, especially if they have been doing it the same way for years, it is very difficult to modify that person’s behavior without convincing them they have been wrong all this time.

Another option to changing behavior is to change something in their environment that forces them to do a task differently. For example, let’s say we have service technicians who continue to price certain repairs incorrectly. A very easy solution to this dilemma is to purchase a software program that will price a repair the same way every time when a certain part is installed. The software program would not allow changes to the part or labor price. The software could also limit the technician to certain predetermined service fees for the specific product they are servicing. This is one example of what I mean by changing something in their environment that changes their behavior permanently.

So, what can be done to get people motivated at work to do things better or differently? Let’s look at the definition of “Employee Motivation”:

Employee Motivation is a process to stimulate a person working in an organization to act towards some desired purpose or goal and/or to change the behavior of a person in some desired way. Key in the process of motivation is to address employee needs.

Let’s examine what needs to be done to motivate someone. As written in the definition, “Stimulate a person to act towards some desired purpose or goal. Here is how this is done:

  1. Goals and objectives. the organization must have a set of defined objectives that it, as a business must be working towards. These must be communicated and explained.
  2. Know their role. The employee needs to understand his or her role in helping the business reach those objectives. An employee showing up for work, and just doing enough to get by, happens when they believe no matter what they do, is not recognized by leadership.
  3. Metrics. Employees must have a method of knowing how well they are doing on their job. Basically, there needs to be some metrics in place that measures something the employee has control over and can be improved by the employee changing something in his or her daily routines.
  4. Rewards system. There must be a system that rewards the employee for improvement and it needs to be consistent, fair, attainable and ongoing. It could be gifts, recognition, money, food or anything that makes the team feel it is worth working towards.
  5. Positive energy. No matter how much a person is paid and or knows what their goal is, working in a negative environment with daily stressors and emotional drama will absolutely destroy any motivation that happens to show up. There should never be any loud screaming, or public display of an employee being disciplined.
  6. Kindness and caring culture. True appreciation and recognition are more important than even high salaries in promoting employee loyalty. Research confirms that positive and warm relationships are one of the most important predictors of psychological well-being, so leaders must be mindful about the culture they are creating and the sentiments they express at work. The basics of a kind culture involve consideration and respect, which increase creative output at both the individual and team level.
  7. Involvement and empowerment. Letting frontline employees get involved in decisions is by far the most successful method to get buy-in on new ideas or changes. Secondly, when an employee has the power to make decisions on the job, rather than waiting for management approval, they feel they have more control of their day-to-day experiences and results. A good example would be to let the employee decide whether to write off something after we had to return to a customer within the warranty period or just out of it, instead of having to call the office for approval.

Motivating someone is not just shoving them in front of someone who will tell them how awesome they are and how they may accomplish anything possible. Motivating people at work requires a process that involves them, keeps them energized, allows them to give input and gives them a rewarding and positive environment to go to every day. Today, men and women in the skilled trade industry are rewarded with better benefits and pay than ever before. You don’t want to lose a valuable member of your team simply because they did not feel anyone cared about them personally nor was motivated to stay and continue feeling as if they were part of a dysfunctional group rather than a winning team.

Frank Besednjak

Posted In: ACCA Now, Management

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