Motivation in the Workplace: Nurture, Praise, Repeat
By: Roberta Matuson
How often do you ask yourself, “How do I get employees to do more than I’m asking?”
It’s no secret that people are more apt to go the extra mile when they feel motivated. This is particularly important in small businesses where everyone is asked to do more with less. Here are some time tested tips on how to motivate employees to rise to the occasion.
The quest for recognition begins in early childhood. We quickly learn to expect praise when we do something good -- when we don’t get it our behavior changes accordingly. As adults, we bring these same expectations and behaviors into the workplace.
When an employee begins work with a company, they are willing to make excuses for an employer who doesn’t earn a passing grade on the subject of motivating employees. “My boss is so busy he doesn’t have time to thank me,” becomes the mantra.
That is until the employee sees other workers being recognized -- or they simply tire of working in a thankless environment.
Employee recognition is highly sought by employees and doesn’t require a huge amount of resources. For example, a “thank you” in front of a customer or co-workers can go a long way in making someone’s day and is something small business owners can do.
An on-the-spot bonus also works wonders -- or perhaps even a promotion for a job well done. The key ingredient to employee recognition is sincerity. Always speak from you heart when recognizing an employee’s efforts and contribution.
Some small business owners mistakenly believe that if they can’t praise everyone, it’s best to say nothing at all. Praise should be delivered where most appropriate. If you’re a small business owner and you have people on your staff who do nothing worth noting, then take a closer look as to why these people are still in your employ.
Generating a Sense of Achievement
Feeling fulfilled at work goes a long way when it comes to increased motivation in the workplace. Those who don’t feel a sense of achievement certainly aren’t going to take on more than what’s required.
It’s human nature for good employees to seek additional responsibility and continuous growth. However, in flat organizations, it’s not always possible to provide new job titles, as there are only so many positions to go around.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide opportunities for your people to learn new skills and experience a sense of achievement at work.
First, recognize that achievement is defined differently for everyone. For example, in your world as business owner, being a global player in your marketplace may be your definition of achievement; in your employee’s world, being trusted to develop a marketing campaign is a sign that they’ve arrived.
At least once a year, as part of employee performance reviews take the time to ask your employees what they’d like to achieve in the coming year and don’t forget to review all they’ve accomplished while in your employ.
Work together with each employee to put a plan in place to ensure they continue to feel a sense of achievement throughout the year.
When is the last time you put your heart and soul into a project where you had absolutely no say as to what would be achieved or how things would be done?
Employees who are involved early on in a project have a greater sense of commitment than those who are brought in at the end and simply told to “get it done.”
Involving employees in business decisions early on is a motivation technique that works in any situation.
When people are involved in decisions, they feel a sense of ownership, which is something that is highly valued by those who run small businesses. They will do whatever it takes to see a project through successful completion.
They don’t need to be told that now is the time to rise to the occasion because they are already riding the crest of the wave. They are also bringing other workers along for the ride.
Take a look around your organization and see what areas could benefit from involvement by those in the know. Then do yourself a favor. Step back, involve others and watch how motivated your employees become when they are involved in the business.
People tend to rise to the occasion when they feel they have control over how and when work gets done.
Try the following the next time you need employees to put in overtime and you don’t have a particular need that requires everyone to work on a certain day or time:
Tell your employees what needs to be done by what deadline; allow them to decide when they will do the actual work. For some, that may mean coming in early; for others that might involve working on the weekend.
Giving employees control over their work hours will almost guarantee that most will rise to the occasion when you are in a pinch. Most workers will do whatever they can to get the job done.
Motivation in the workplace is easier to achieve than you might think. Treat people like they matter and it won’t be long before they are giving your clients and customers the same care and attention they are receiving.
© 2012 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions and author of the highly acclaimed book Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-5 Leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.