A recurring dream: Employees who go the extra mile, take pride in their jobs, seem not just satisfied, but enthusiastic and, most of all, productive! Just a fantasy, you think?
It’s called employee motivation, and, when achieved, it can transform a business into a dynamic, growth organization. The question is how…and at what cost?
Does true motivation come from a big paycheck? An employee-of-the-month parking space? A pat on the back every six business days and free donuts by the coffee machine? Sometimes yes; sometimes no.
What motivation is not!
- Benefits are not motivators. They are retainers. Health insurance, a 401(k) plan and paid vacations help keep employees from leaving. However, these are not motivators in and of themselves.
- Friday pizza parties, free use of the company car and other feel-good perks may be great morale boosters, but these, also, are not motivators. Good morale is part of motivation; however, an employee with good morale may be happy, but not necessarily motivated.
What motivation is!
Research has shown that motivation is a personal, inner force that gives behavior purpose and direction for an individual. While there are universal motivators (benefits and rewards that are generally common to all people), the challenge remains that what motivates one person may not motivate another.
Plus, personal motivators change over time. For example, income may be a great motivator for a young person with a growing family. However, as income increases, money can become less important as a motivator. Also, as employees get older, interesting work may become a more powerful motivator than money or even recognition.
Try some proven motivators: Each business owner must decide what works best in the organization’s unique culture. Nonetheless, here is a list of areas on which to focus that can help translate universal motivators into specifics:
- Variety. If employees do routine work, find ways to avoid the assembly-line mentality. Build in variety and, if possible, fun. While your company should not be a funhouse, nothing is gained from making it a morgue, either.
- Choices. Whenever possible, provide employees with input and choices into how they do their work.
- Opportunity. Encourage responsibility, leadership and initiative within your company. That 24-year-old receptionist may have great ideas for improving customer service, especially since she is the one who spends her day greeting and talking to customers. Give her a chance and encourage her to try new ideas.
- Interaction. Promote social interaction and business teamwork between employees. Turn them loose on planning a meeting or solving a project problem.
- Tolerance. Morale will not improve while beatings continue! When encouraging initiative, do not punish mistakes. Otherwise, there will soon be no initiative.
- Input. This is known as job “ownership.” Do not treat employees like employees. Make it clear that they are not just wage-slave hirelings, but key to the success of the organization. This starts by keeping them informed about the state of the business. If you are worried about sales, let them know. As respected team members, they are likely to pitch in and help turn things around.
- Goals. Don’t just give them goals. Help them set their own goals. This may mean meeting with them individually to discuss where they see themselves a year from now within the company. You may be surprised to find they have their own ambitions that can provide win-win results for them and for the business.
- Feedback. Create yardsticks that enable you and them to measure their performance in a quantitative way. This helps both of you know how well they are performing. “Increase sales,” for example, is a nebulous, impossible-to-measure objective. However, “Boost sales by 10 percent this quarter,” creates real goals that can be strong motivators.
Motivation is not a one-shot deal. It must be ongoing. It calls for study of the company’s culture and employee makeup. However, the effort a business owner or manager puts into motivation can reap a bountiful harvest in terms of increased productivity and company loyalty.
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