Motivating employees doesn’t need to be hard
There’s a lot of complaining about employee lack of motivation and a lot of discussion at management meetings about how to motivate them. And, as you would imagine, the answers run the entire spectrum of management theory learned very early on in B-school.
- Some stick to the old autocratic system. Tell them what to do, and fire them if they don’t do it. That sets an example for the others, by golly. That will keep everyone on their toes. The result is high absenteeism, turnover, and no loyalty to the manager or the company
- At the other extreme is the fully democratic manager who insists that everyone must have his/her full say on everything. The problem with this is that important decisions don’t get made in a timely manner, and even employees are muttering to themselves, “Just make a decision and we’ll deal with it, but please not one more team meeting about which copier to choose.”
- In between these two are all other management styles which may lean to one or the other or may be pretty much in the center. Situational management is probably the most center style – look at each situation and decide whether you can be democratic or autocratic or something in between.
Maybe we are asking the wrong question. Instead of discussing what management style is the best, perhaps we ought to be asking ourselves what will make our employees satisfied with their jobs. Because job satisfaction results in motivation and productivity. This speaks to a newer style that many call “servant leadership.”
Why Employee Satisfaction is the Goal
In June, 2014, the New York Times released a report of a study conducted by The Energy Product and Harvard Business Review, in an attempt to understand what “engaged” employees at work. More than 12,000 surveys were given to employees across multiple types of industries. The results were all similar. There are 4 things that employees want from their bosses:
- The opportunity for some time to physically re-charge at work
- The need to feel appreciated and valued for what they do
- The freedom from distractions to focus on the important tasks and to determine how they get that work done
- To feel a connection to the company’s goals – to understand the larger picture
How Managers and Supervisors Can Satisfy Employee Needs
This survey clearly defines what managers need to be doing, no matter what they may believe their “style” to be. While some find that approaching productivity from employee perspective, others believe it is absolutely the right approach. Most people know what they need to be successful.
- Increase Employees Autonomy
Stop micro-managing every aspect of your employees’ work – their conditions, their areas, and how they accomplish their tasks. When you give them tasks, let them decide how best they will complete them by the deadline. If they deliver, great. If not, then you know that that you will need to micro-manage, but only that employee, not everyone.
- Give Challenging Tasks/Projects
When you do this, you send a clear message – “I believe you can do this, and I have faith in your ability to do so.” It’s hard to give up control and to not keep coming back to check, but you must force yourself to do so. When employees think you believe in them, they will rise to the occasion. They will work harder to meet the challenge – even if they have to put in extra time.
- Engage Your People
Ask questions of your employees and then really listen to what they have to say. You need to understand what is important to them, what their lives may be like outside of work, and develop a relationship that they are willing to share with you when they may not be a productive as normal because of personal and/or family issues. An open line of communication makes an employee believe that you care about him/her as a person, not just a worker. You also need to discover what your employees’ career goals are and how you can help them achieve those goals.
- Develop a Policy of Transparency
When you return from a big meeting, fill your employees in on what you can. They need to feel that they are in on where the company is going and what the goals are. When they understand this, they are far more willing to work hard to be a part of those goals. When they do not have this information, they feel “dis-connected.”
Dis-connectedness means that have no “stake in the race.”
- Solicit Their Advice and Ideas
Even if you do not incorporate any of their ideas or solutions, the fact that you solicit their input when problems arise or when solutions must be found, is huge. Again, they feel connected to the organization and are far more willing to think about ways to make thing better. And who knows? One of them may just have the perfect solution – it happens!
- Give Genuine Praise When it is Due – Every Time – and Make it Public
One manager holds a weekly meeting with his team. During that meeting he reviews what was accomplished the week before and expresses praise and gives recognition, by name, to those who made good things happen. This motivates not just the doer of good things. Everyone understands that you are willing to give credit where credit is due and they will work to get that credit too.
- Remember That Employees are Individuals
Ask every employee individually what s/he needs and wants from you – have them name three things. Then, remember what they tell you and treat them in that manner. Employees want to know that you see them as individuals, not just a cog in a wheel.
- Social Connections are Important
Someone once said that people who play together have a tough time having conflict with one another. It is important to have social activities, because it does cement relationships among employees in a new environment. When social activities go well, everyone is far more comfortable working together on the job. And they develop better understanding of one another – sensitivity is big.
- Provide the Right Resources
Some employees need to work in a quiet place; others prefer to work around co-workers. Some may need updated technology. When you have asked them what they need from you, take them seriously and deliver it.
Management styles will always be up for debate. Employees do not want a dictator; most do not want a parent. They want a manager who believes in them is willing to give them challenging tasks based upon that believe. They want a manager who understands their individual needs in the workplace and beyond. Notice that nowhere in the survey did the respondents speak to higher salaries or more benefits.