Motivation cannot be imposed from the outside, like a rule! It comes from within, and as such, to raise motivation levels among employees, the workplace needs to offer something that connects to the personal needs of individuals.
This simple reality is surprisingly poorly understood by many organisations, which often tackle the problem of poor engagement and motivation levels by looking in the wrong places.
Low motivation levels have become more acute, with the latest studies on employee engagement indicating that millennial employees are more demanding than ever when it comes to expectations of the workplace.
When a problem goes unaddressed and unsolved, it can spread quickly and become ‘toxic’, leading to poor workplace culture, employee ‘drain’, and poor overall performance.
So, how do you start turning it around? Where should you be looking if you start to notice a general lack of zip, positivity, and energy in your organisation? Here are a few of key ideas:
1. Offer hope for the future
People are naturally forward-looking. Unless they can see what’s coming and feel positive about it, they will look for alternatives. Are they treading water with nowhere to go?
Have you shared:
- The vision of your organisation?
- How each employee fits into this vision?
- How their present role contributes to the success?
- How future roles may help them reach their personal goals?
If you have answered NO to any or all of these, how can you expect motivation levels to be high? You are ignoring one of the basic human needs of employees: to have hope for the future.
Providing opportunities and a career path will motivate people to develop with you, fulfil their potential, and bring positive sentiment and greater loyalty to the organisation. Ignore it and they may drag others down and soon disappear.
2. Listen to and act on feedback
People also need a voice and to feel that their needs and concerns are being listened to. They need some empathy from their leaders.
- Regularly sit down with employees one-on-one?
- Talk about future goals and ambitions as well as past performance?
- Know what their personal interests are?
- Implement necessary changes based on their feedback?
If you presently sit down once a year with employees and conduct a performance review, you are probably not meeting their need to be listened to. Annual reviews are often dreaded by employees, rendering them useless in many cases, as information is not given freely; leaders may never know what their people are thinking if this is the main way of gathering information.
Regular, continuous feedback that is seen to be acted upon is the way to go. Remaining responsive to the needs of employees may even help improve customer relationships: nobody knows what your customers are thinking better than the people who deal with them every day!
3. Recognise and incentivise regularly
People value feeling important, meeting challenges, and being successful. Think of a relationship where you felt you were taken for granted – how long did that last?
So are you currently:
- Setting regular achievable goals for employees?
- Celebrating and rewarding when these are achieved?
- Setting new goals after each challenge has been passed?
- Frequently recognising employees in front of their peers?
Unless you have a workplace culture where success is recognised and rewarded, it’s likely to be accompanied by low motivation levels. Often we find the opposite of positivity and achievement; people are in fear of losing their jobs and avoid making mistakes, which creates a negative undercurrent of energy.
Whether it’s face-to-face, in monthly newsletters, or by email, a little recognition and praise goes a long way.
4. Build an engaged team culture
Most people remember their best times at work as being part of a great team. We like to work with people we are connected to, perform well alongside, are successful with, and have fun with.
Some people of course work best on their own (and there are always suitable roles for these people) but nobody becomes completely asocial as soon as they step into the workplace. They don’t cease to have social needs.
So, are you presently:
- Hiring people that fit into the team ethic?
- Trusting and empowering team members?
- Leading teams by addressing the needs of all members?
- Having fun in your team and occasionally spending time together after work?
The reverse of this scenario is cliques, unhealthy competition, divisions, and silos within organisations, creating a general negative attitude where people come in, do their job, and go home (where they can be who they really are).
Building a positive team-based culture will not only create more positivity in the workplace – it will flow out of the organisation to customers.
5. Improve mentorship and coaching
Do you have managers managing processes or leaders leading people? The two approaches are very different.
Leaders within engaged organisations looking to meet the needs of modern employees should see themselves more as mentors and coaches. They help their people develop as people, as well as employees.
Are you currently:
- Investing time in the personal and professional development of your people?
- Taking time understand what your employees want to achieve?
- Mentoring people along a path?
- Supporting them and helping them progress?
- Providing the tools to help them measure this progress?
Unless you are investing time in developing employee relationships you will find that motivation and performance levels suffer.
None of the above five changes are possible without leaders who are able to connect with and actively engage employees. Beyond skills, experience, and qualifications, leaders need emotional intelligence to be able to lead people effectively; they need to understand people and what makes them ‘tick’ to be able to raise motivation levels.