Employee Motivation: It Really Does Matter
If you’ve ever been stuck in a job with no direction or motivation and have felt extremely discouraged, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, there are many employees who find themselves caught in the same situation. Managers and supervisors are often not taught how to motivate their employees. Regrettably, several management personnel are only advised on the performance-improvement-plan form of management. But often, the carrot produces better results than the stick.
Consider the bosses you’ve had in your career. Who were the good ones, and who were the bad ones, and — most importantly—what was the difference? After some contemplation, you’ll begin to see why the good ones were able to motivate you and make you passionate about coming into work.
Although it’s difficult in the corporate world to find employee satisfaction that is meaningful and lasting, as management, it’s your job to see to it your employees feel appreciated, which in turn will result in better teamwork, better attitudes and an eagerness to contribute.
Gregg Lederman, in his book CRAVE: You Can Enhance Employee Motivation in 10 Minutes by Friday, explains, “Strategic employee recognition is a management discipline that goes way beyond ‘being the right thing to do.’ Recognition should not be viewed only as a feel-good, altruistic endeavor. No, it’s a management discipline that should garner significant ROI.”
What makes Susan feel rewarded and valued won’t be the same as what motivates Kari or Chad. People are individuals, and being recognized in a way that is meaningful to them shows you care enough about them as individuals to acknowledge them as such. In my years of working with people in leadership positions, I always emphasize the importance of knowing enough about your employees to understand what they value individually as a reward. My advice is: If you don’t know, just ask. Most people are more than happy to relate what makes them feel appreciated.
If you are a supervisor or manager of a group of employees, it’s very important to understand that they aren’t robots. They require a human touch and frequent motivation. As a leader, it is your job to provide that. If you don’t, you’re going to find yourself constantly trying to fill the same positions over and over as unmotivated people get discouraged and quit.
In their book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People, Gary Chapman and Paul White offer, “When leaders actively pursue teaching their team members how to communicate authentic appreciation in the ways desired by the recipients, the whole work culture improves. Interestingly, even managers and supervisors report they enjoy their work more! All of us thrive in an atmosphere of appreciation.”
My clients are often surprised how far a little bit of encouragement propels their employees and organization. In my experience, ignoring or discounting the importance of employee motivation often leads to disengagement.
In the HBR article “4 Reasons Good Employees Lose Their Motivation” (registration required), authors Richard E. Clark and Bror Saxberg offer this advice: “Carefully assessing the nature of the motivational failure — before taking action — is crucial. Applying the wrong strategy (say, urging an employee to work harder, when the reason is that they’re convinced they can’t do it) can actually backfire, causing motivation to falter further.”
They explain that these reasons fit into four categories: values mismatch, lack of self-efficacy, disruptive emotions and attribution errors.
Basically, the first one, values mismatch, means the employee isn’t connected with the value of the task and therefore is disinclined to perform the task. With the second “trap” (as they refer to it), the lack of self-efficacy points to the feeling that the employee is afraid they aren’t capable of performing the task, and so they are fearful of appearing incompetent.
I’ve seen that when employees are overwhelmed with negative emotions, such as frustration or anger, they feel overcome by disruptive emotions, and it interrupts their ability to be motivated enough to perform a task. When the managers I’ve worked with take the responsibility to recognize these signs and remove hindrances that are holding their employees back from their true potential, things change for the better.
It’s important to understand that the work your employees are doing needs to make a difference in some way and for you to help them see it, too. Otherwise, your employees will grow restless and feel automated. It’s up to you to inject some passion and help them to see how valuable they are to the organization. Let your employees know on a frequent basis that they are welcome any time to come to you for feedback and sincere communication, and you will reap the benefits of a motivated workforce.
This article has previously been featured on Forbes