I mean…. if you have access to a tropical island, and expense is no question, then go ahead and promise your employees a free holiday. It’s a surefire way to get them to work hard for you in the period before they take off!
Heck, if expense isn’t an issue, just promise them raise after raise, because as we all know, money talks.
But I’m guessing neither of these options are practical or feasible for you… and besides, they probably won’t retain you a motivated workforce in the long run, anyway.
Still, with only 69% of employees feeling like they consistently put effort into their work, 2017 may be the right time to improve your employee motivation techniques.
The perks of having a highly motivated workforce should be pretty obvious… motivated employees are generally happier, more productive, and more invested in making your business or brand succeed.
There are a number of ways to motivate and incentivize them that don’t involve airfares or pay rises. I’ve crowdsourced a few expert opinions for you on how you can encourage the people who work for you to put in the hard yards.
1. Provide regular, meaningful feedback
Human resources expert Susan Heathfield believes that providing regular feedback to your employees can motivate them and boost productivity. Employees benefit from regularly discussing their strengths and weaknesses in terms of confidence and personal development.
“When I poll supervisors, the motivation and morale builder they identify first is knowing how they are doing at work.Your staff members need the same information.They want to know when they have done a project well and when you are disappointed in their results.
They need this information as soon as possible following the event. They need to work with you to make sure they produce a positive outcome the next time. Set up a daily or weekly schedule and make sure feedback happens.You’ll be surprised how effective this tool can be in building employee motivation and morale.”
Feedback should always be tailored to the individual, delivered in a positive way, and linked back to the objectives of your organization. While it may seem time-consuming to carve out a daily or weekly time to check in with your employees, think about it this way: when you thank people for a job well done, they are even more inclined to repeat the performance.
Also, when people perform the same work tasks day-in and day-out, they can develop a ‘blind spot’ in terms of areas in which they can improve. They can forget why what they are doing matters, or worse, feel taken for granted.
Try to make your feedback more meaningful than simply saying ‘good job!’ and keep track of the feedback you give to monitor your employees’ performance and motivation levels over time.
2. Clearly define and deliver objectives
Author and Forbes contributor Lisa Quast emphasizes that employees must have defined objectives in order to stay motivated.
“Clearly define the organization’s vision, mission, and strategy as well as the goals and objectives of each employee (and include your employees in the crafting of these). Make sure everyone on your team understands the key role they play in contributing to the success of the department. Ensure each employee is in alignment toward the overall strategy so your group can work as a team and help each other out. Positive team energy will help motivate everyone.”
In other words, if an employee doesn’t understand or isn’t aware of your objectives and expectations, how can they possibly perform at a higher level? Make sure that each of the employees you are trying to motivate understands their roles and the specific responsibilities involved in quantifiable and bounded terms. The more detail given, the less margin for error and miscommunication.
You may be wondering how this helps motivate employees, and the answer is simple. Once you have clearly painted a picture of your organization’s vision and your employees’ role in achieving this vision, the better they are able to articulate and achieve professional goals.
Research shows that employees want to know specifically how their work contributes to the greater good of an organization. Defining exactly how this occurs makes that connection explicit for them.
3. Provide ample learning opportunities
Author and human resources manager Margaret Jacoby believes that offering employees a chance to learn new skills and advance their career development is crucial when it comes to creating a highly-engaged and motivated team. Offering your employees the chance to build, enhance or extend their skills can keep them motivated by reducing feelings of boredom and the fear of falling into a career rut.
“Your employees are more motivated when they know they’re working towards something. If they think there’s no opportunity for advancement, they don’t have much to work for. Nobody wants to work a dead-end job. Motivate your employees by offering training that gives them the skills they need to climb their career ladder. Grooming young employees to move on to better opportunities is valuable to you as well because it enables you to build your company’s reputation as a great place to work.”
Perks and privileges don’t need to come in the form of salary raises and breakfast muffins, so talk to your employees about training that’s internal to the company as well as free external courses, webinars and self-study. Share resources that you may already have a subscription to, as well as the books and materials that have helped you achieve your own career goals. Make recommendations and referrals to industry leaders, and let your employees know that you are invested in their long-term career progression.
While you may worry that you will lose employees to greener work pastures, having people in your team who are constantly learning and advancing will give your organization a competitive edge as well as better bottom-line results.
Make sure that each of your employees have the opportunity to further their career within your organization, and obviously make sure that any training you provide is transferable and relevant to your employee’s current job.
4. Lead by example
Founder and CEO of Audience Bloom Jayson Demers understands the importance of leading by example in the business world. In his opinion, employees are motivated by positive leadership and take their cues from motivated managers.
“As a leader within your organization, people are going to look to you to set an example for the rest of the group. You’re going to be setting a tone, a work ethic, and a set of values for the company whether you mean to directly or not, and setting the right example can have a meaningful affect on the mentality of your group.
For example, if you work hard and stay optimistic about everything, even in the face of enormous challenges, your employees will be likely to do the same. If you set an example of positivity and understanding, your workers will mirror you, and the entire culture of the work environment will become more motivating.”
Remember to model the need for continuous learning yourself. Always demonstrate accountability, take a collaborative approach to projects, and don’t be afraid to give praise where praise is due. Let people know you’re excited and motivated to be doing whatever it is you’re doing, and they will automatically absorb some of your charged-up energy.
This doesn’t mean you need to act superhuman – everybody knows there’s more to life than work. Just be relatable, act with integrity, and behave like the type of employee you’d like to have. Lead with maturity and expertise, not by lording your position or title over others. Show your employees how you got to where you are with your day-to-day attitude, and you’ll inspire them to step their own career game up.
5. Share stories of success
Bestselling author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy reckons you should regularly share positive experiences in order to keep employees motivated.
“For a person to feel like a winner, [they] must succeed at the task. [They] must achieve the goal. [They] must accomplish the responsibility and get the result that was asked for. Not only is it the job of the manager to motivate employees, but they must also help each person experience success.”
Everyone loves stories of people achieving success even in the face of enormous challenges, and your employees are no exception. Adopting good, consistent storytelling as part of your employee motivation policy is a smart move because stories have a universal appeal and spark the emotional connection that is so essential to increasing engagement.
Share your own positive experiences of professional environments, or turn to some of the great books of the business world to provide a different perspective. There are numerous motivational authors like Brian Tracy himself, Atul Gawande or even Robert M. Pirsig whose books lend themselves well to being excerpted in weekly meetings, and can help employees take a fresh look at their roles within an organization.
Ultimately, sharing stories of success both helps keep employees on track and improves communication if you choose ones that are driven by positivity and involve connecting with others.
6. Become an active listener
Management expert and Forbes contributor Victor Lipman stresses the need to listen actively to your employees’ problems, concerns, and frustrations.
“This is an easy one: just listen thoughtfully to employees’ ideas for job improvement… or their problems, concerns, frustrations, conflicts, dramas, kids’ issues, parents’ issues, grandparents’ issues… you name it, I’ve heard it. Okay, so you do have to separate the wheat from the chaff, and as a manager, it can wear you out at times – but within reason, intelligent listening is an integral part of the job. If someone is a chronic malingerer, and carps for the sake of carping, just tell them to knock it off and get back to work. But if someone is a good employee… well, people appreciate being heard.”
People work hard for those they trust and respect – and for bosses who make it clear they listen to and integrate feedback. Effective listening is essential to motivating and engaging employees, so if you tend to be the main one talking in meetings or have a habit of dominating your one-on-one conversations, you might need to practise your active listening skills.
Active listening is all about building reciprocal relationships with people where they can speak openly and trust that you will concentrate, receive, respond to and remember what is said. Creating an environment where people feel comfortable coming to you with anything that’s on their minds isn’t necessarily difficult, it just involves fully listening to, rather than just passively ‘hearing’, the message of the person.
There are many verbal and non-verbal cues that you can use to indicate that you are actively listening to your employees, such as nodding and smiling. However, the most important thing to remember is to give them time and space to explore their thoughts and feelings when they are talking with you. Don’t rush employees through catch-ups, meetings or briefings. Encourage them to ask questions, and show them through your body language that their responses matter to you.
This sort of warm, inclusive approach is inherently motivational, and builds confidence to boot.
There are many traditional and non-traditional ways to help boost your employees’ morale, engagement and motivation. Try implementing some of the ideas mentioned above in your workplace to find what works best for you and your team – but remember, there isn’t a single silver-bullet strategy that will magically motivate all of your employees at once.
Treat your employees as individuals – only by truly understanding their individual needs, values and goals can you really help them be as productive as possible.
That is, unless you do have a tropical island to whisk them away to once they achieve a certain outcome.
Let me know what you think of these tips in the comments below, and share how you motivate employees without salary increases or muffin baskets.