Igniting Workplace Enthusiasm

"How to Motivate Your Employees"

Newsletter January 23, 2014
Most people have a misconception that money is the #1 motivator for everyone. Herzberg in his research on team engagement, described remuneration as simply a "hygene factor" – nothing exceptional, nothing extraordinary, rather expected.
Also, according to Maslow, a well-known researcher on motivation, there are general types of needs that motivate people to act: physiological, safety, love, and esteem. As one desire is satisfied, another pops up to take its place.
Money and job security fall into the first two categories and are easily satisfied. However, the more important needs that all people crave are love and esteem, and those are achieved by feeling recognized and appreciated. Interestingly, there are very few people walking around complaining about being too appreciated! We don’t do it enough and we should do it more.
The best way to provide recognition and appreciation is through the use of rewards. To make our rewards work, we must first follow certain basic guidelines:
1. Design rewards based on the individual's personal preferences.
In Japan, publically recognizing someone might be a concern for that person. They might prefer a private tete-a-tete, where you tell them how great they are. This is often because they don’t feel comfortable to stand out from the crowd and possibly draw jealous, negative reactions from their colleagues.
Some people like dark chocolate and although you might think giving them a box of chocolate will be appreciated, they are disappointed to find it is an all white chocolate selection. We need to know what people appreciate, to be effective with rewards.
2. Reward for achievement - Rewards should be based on what was actually done.
Telling someone they did a "good job" is a totally meaningless comment. Precisely what was done well? We need to tell them exactly what was good work, so that they can keep repeating that and also so that we have credibility with them. Because we are being specific, we can build trust - they know we have been paying attention, observing and appreciating what they have been doing and it what we are saying is not just flippant or false praise.
3. Time your rewards.
Rewards and recognition should be given as soon as possible after the desired behavior. "Strike while the iron is hot" is an old idea and it applies just as well to praise. Don’t make it hard for people to work out the connection between what they did and your noiffication. Reward and recognition that come too long after the achievement, do little to motivate the employee.
Leaders who store up all the praise until project completion miss a great opportunity. When we ask people to step out of their Comfort Zone to do something new, they naturally lack confidence. We need to be boosting their confidence at each stage to embolden them to push faster and harder. Also, saving up praise like handing over a Christmas present once a year is way too late in the piece. Praise early, praise often!
4. Involve employees in decisions that directly affect them.
People have a need to belong. Make them feel like they are an important part of your business. We all support a world we create. So get them to have a sense of ownership, a sense of buy-in, by involving them in the process.
Communicating clearly about direction is important, but it is even better to use the "distributed intelligence" of the whole team to solve problems and produce innovation.
5. Have regular meetings to let employees know what is going on in the company.
It's important that everyone feels they belong. Middle management are often like the concrete floors in a high rise building – information gets to them but it does not pass any further. Either through wishing to keep information as a status protector or by negligence, often middle management fails to communicate what is happening. Usually, the "why" of decisions goes missing. The senior leadership group merrily carry on running the company imagining the entire organization is united behind the message. In fact they have not heard it or don’t understand it.
6. Listen to an employee who has an idea for improving an aspect in your business and then give them full credit for it.
Hogging the limelight and monopolizing the praise is a penchant for far too many managers. Learn to "share the glory". Send a note to your boss (and copy the staff member) as you heap praise on them for the fine role they played in the project or for the good effort they made in getting the deal done. You will win enormous respect and loyalty. Don’t forget you cannot move up. Unless there are people who can step into your role and do a competent job. Every organization is looking for future leaders and the "builder of future leaders" is a treasure for any company – by the way, that should be you!
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