Several Mistakes in Staff Motivation
Our clients are often asking us to find better ways to motivate their staff. They are trying to get them more involved in a new challenge or are considering a financial incentive to spur productivity. They may be trying to encourage new ideas or overcome seemly insurmountable obstacles. Carolyn Dewar and Scott Keller provide us with several ideas in their Harvard Business Review Article, Four Motivation Mistakes Most Managers Make.
Leaders assume employees care about a company as you think they do. Social science indicates that there are five sources of meaning for humans at work: the impact of work on society, the customer, the company, the team and “me”. So when it comes to implementing change, not all may be equally motivated. Leaders need to take into account as many of these motivators in the majority of their employees and hope the others will follow. Consider a change at a major service provider where offices had to be relocated and the roles of employees modified. The leadership had to clearly communicate the benefits to both the community and the customers they serviced. It had to explain how the changes would improve the company’s competiveness and long-term sustainability. Finally every effort must be made to assure employees of their job security and salary stability.
Financial incentives are not always the best motivators. Leaders often decide to use financial incentives to motivate their staff. Annual or quarterly bonuses often become part of the expected compensation package. Unrealized expectations often lead to a lack of confidence in how they are calculated, which leads to them becoming less of a motivating tool. One company we worked with provided an annual bonus, given to employees 90 days after the close of the financial year. A lump sum, based on profitability, was developed by the owner, and proportional to staff members based on his assessment of contribution. The gesture was appreciated by the recipients but never provided a motivator over the course of the year. It was viewed more as a gift than an incentive
Unexpected and unscheduled rewards can provide a more powerful motivator. Giving a department the day off after accomplishing a major productivity goal is one idea. Sending a check to the staff after the completion of an important project also will work. They are examples of unanticipated rewards (not expected) that can have an impact.
Be a good listener. We often say, god gave us one mouth and two ears, use them in proportion. A leader can choose to carefully craft a presentation, explaining his views or an upcoming change. The alternative is to introduce the subject and ask for questions. This approach lets the staff know that their input is valued and provide immediate feedback. The questions they ask become a valuable part of obtaining commitment.
Don’t forget the good stuff. At times, focusing on the problem may lead to frustration and a lack of confidence in achieving the desired results. The question becomes, that with such an overwhelming issue, how can we muster the energy and resources to win the day? People become self-doubters. This is the time to remind the team of the organizations past successes, the talent of the people, and its history of overcoming obstacles. Consider a retailer who just had a Wal-Mart move into town. The staff might be ready to help you close the doors, knowing that they will never compete on price. Remind them that they are more knowledge of their products, services, and the unique needs of their customers. They can then utilize these strengths to compete with the big guys. Build success upon your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.