Employee motivation is the elusive Holy Grail for most businesses. The truth of the matter is most organizations and leaders do not know how to motivate their teams in a consistent fashion. They try to ply people with rewards if they achieve goals, they offer sage advice to try and inspire team members and they try to lead by example. They may see a short burst of productivity only to have the team fall right back into their normal routines and level of efforts.
We all think we want to create employee motivation but what we are really talking about is the desire to create employee engagement. You motivate people to excel in short bursts, to overcome challenges or to reach a specific goal but we engage to create a culture that transcends extrinsic motivations. When you nurture and develop trust and passion for the company’s vision and goals, you engage team members based on their intrinsic motivation.
Employee motivation and engagement can be achieved in small steps. It does not require a major overhaul of an organization but it does require a commitment from leadership to support and celebrate their team members. Here are what we believe to be the essential steps:
- A simple thank you goes a long way. Be generous with praise and appreciation. Everyone wants feedback and to know what they do well, better than anyone else. And the wonderful thing about praise and saying thank you it is an unlimited strategic resource you can use to motivate and engage. Praise from your peers, your managers and leadership is essential to build a foundation for trust.
- Collaboration and empowerment. To truly engage you need to give everyone ownership of a project and empower your team to work together rather then everyone reporting to one individual can do wonders. Think about it. What’s worse than letting your supervisor down? Letting your team down! Allowing people to work together as a team, on an equal level with their co-workers, will often produce better projects faster. People will come in early, stay late, and devote more of their energy to solving problems.
- Co-create and make your ideas theirs. Bring your team in on the goals and objectives and challenges and work together to discuss solutions. Let them take ownership in the process. Instead of telling people what you want done; ask them in a way that will make them feel like they came up with the idea. Present your desired direction as a idea and then let them provide feedback and enhancements. Then the idea becomes their idea.
- Mentor your team and be positive. No one wants to hear that they did something wrong. That is the path to the dark side of de-motivate and disengagement. Be constructive in your feedback to get people to improve, learn from their mistakes, and fix them. Ask, “Was that the best way to approach the problem? Why not? Have any ideas on what you could have done differently?” Then you’re having a conversation and talking through solutions, not pointing a finger.
- Make everyone a leader. Recognize your top performers’ strengths and let them know that because of their excellence, you want them to be the example for others. This takes us back to strategic praise. Add in by giving public recognition for their talents and achievements you can set the bar on what the company values and that will motivate the leaders to live up to their reputation.
- Connect with your team. Take a team member to lunch once a week. Don’t make it a policy just make it a casual part of your management culture. Take the opportunity to learn about your people and what motivates them. Share ideas, talk about them and why they love their job or how they would make it better. It’s an easy way to remind them that you notice and appreciate their work.
- Celebrate individual and team success and accomplishments. Give Kudos often and freely. Recognition and meaningful rewards can be the most powerful employee motivation you can use. Recognize people in company meetings for accomplishments and tie it back to how it aligns to company goal, objective or value. Run contests or internal games and keep track of the results with Kudos that everyone can see. Incorporate fun ideas as awards that don’t break the bank like a long lunch, VIP parking for the week, dinner, trophies, spa services, and plaques. And when possible go above and beyond and something meaningful by giving them something they really enjoy or care about. Set group goals and celebrate together. Doing things as a group can go a long way.
- Set group goals and have a group rewards. Donate to a charity on behalf of the team and company. Have a company picnic. Organize birthday parties. Hold a happy hour. Don’t just wait until the holidays to do a company activity; organize events throughout the year to remind your team that you are all in it together.
These are the foundational elements for employee motivation and employee engagement. It does take commitment and time but this is the best investment you can make in your people and company. They are after
all one in the same.
Kudos is the easiest to make praise, recognition, collaborate, communicate and appreciate part of your culture. It allows your entire team to be part of the solution. Kudos is the key to sustained employee motivation.