The best ways to motivate employees really comes down to finding ways to keep them engaged and excited about the work they’re doing and the people they are doing it with. Here’s a look at four ways you can do just that.
1. Challenge employees.
People need excitement to stay motivated, says Aleania Orczewska, director of business development at Carte Blanche, a consulting firm that builds company culture, offers management consulting, marketing and business development strategies.
The adage “variety is the spice of life” rings true at the office, says Orczewska. “Many high quality employees leave the best companies because there’s no room for growth.”
Being shortsighted: Don’t assume that employees are only working during normal hours, when they’re at the office or while they’re near your watchful eye. It’s common for diligent, dedicated and driven individuals to read emails at home during their favorite TV show, on the train commuting into work or even at a family gathering. They’ll answer after hours phone calls or be the last one out the door, leaving long after you flicked off the light in your office. And not taking a moment to recognize and acknowledge that — or even worse, come to expect it — can be a sure fire way to stifle a person’s spirit, says Akuamoah.
“If you’re not acknowledging the ideas employees bring to the table or the effort they put in, they’ll stop doing it. That brings down the performance level for the team overall,” she says. “You’re as strong as your weakest link, so don’t let your actions create weakness on the team.”
Disrupt their work/life balance: Emailing at odd hours of the night and early morning on Saturdays can happen during crunch time, but you don’t want that to be the norm. “Everyone needs the opportunity to unplug and recharge without feeling that they’re always ‘on’,” says Akuamoah. Your employee will be much more productive Monday through Friday if they have time to themselves outside of work hours.
Cultivating a cutthroat environment: Creating a team of overtly competitive people who cannot collaborate takes healthy competition to a dangerous level. It almost completely eliminates the aspect of co-worker collaboration that can lead your company to produce the next innovation that changes it all, Orczewska says. Making employees feel insecure about their jobs by constantly referring to the fact that there are thousands of people out there who would want their position will almost always backfire. “Creativity and innovation are lost in the face of anxiety about having a job after their current project,” cautions Orczewska.
That growth isn’t always a higher rung on the corporate ladder. “It’s often the room to grow in their current position,” she says. The opportunity to be challenged, to explore, and to innovate through varied work assignments, projects and responsibilities can keep employees highly motivated.
2. Create a sense of significance.
Don’t forget a reward for a job or challenge well done. You don’t necessarily need a huge, formal reward and recognition program, but you do need to say “thanks.” Orczewska suggests incorporating spontaneous acts of appreciation in management practices to reinforce the cornerstone of your business success. It’s great to celebrate significant events like landing a new major client or meeting a huge deadline. But it’s important to celebrate the small victories, too.
Email a note of thanks, or leave a quick handwritten note on an employee’s desk. Treating a department to pizza or ring a bell if an employee meets a deadline. “The key is saying thank you, not the size of the gesture,” says Orczewska.
Most employees aren’t working hard to please their boss — they’re working hard to do a good job, says Julianna Akuamoah, director of talent and development at the advertising agency, Allen & Gerritsen in Boston. The bonus is when your boss notices and appreciates the effort. “It can provide an extra boost for the employee to keep up the great work.”
3. Ask for their opinion.
Keep employees engaged by asking for (and actually hearing) their opinion on challenging business problems. “That tells employees you trust them with business information and value the differences in your experience,” Akuamoah says. “They’ll feel you appreciate their unique perspective and like a valued member/partner on the team.”
4. Don’t demotivate.
Even the most motivated employees can lose their mojo, especially if a boss’s actions reflect a demoralizing tone. And keeping everyone on the same productive page can be a struggle when bosses and managers fall into some demotivating traps and patterns. Make sure that doesn’t happen at your business by avoiding these basic morale don’ts.
To your success,