The founders of a startup company are highly motivated by the hopes of a lucrative IPO, which may or may not happen sometime in the future. However, according to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor and author, what motivates company founders, and senior executives is very different from what motivates employees to come to work day after day. Kanter strongly recommends that executives and managers focus on giving employees Opportunity for Positive Impact (OPI). And research shows that happy employees are often found in organizations where employees have a “positive impact on social needs.”
When employees work on something that they consider important and meaningful, they are motivated to come to work, and are more loyal to the team and mission. In a recent study of 200,000 job seekers worldwide, conducted by human resources expert, Rainer Strack, concluded that employees look for the following attributes in a job, out of a list of 26 items:
- Appreciation for their work
- Good relationships with colleagues and fun work environment
- Great work-life balance
- Great relationship with their boss
- Prompt and proper action on poor performers
- Career advancement
- Confidence in senior leadership
As you can see, money is not the top incentive for employees. There are 7 job attributes that employees want more than money. MIT data scientist Alex “Sandy” Pentland, author of Social Physics, says that “Everybody tries to manage things with economic incentive; you reward people for doing well and penalize them for not doing better.” To fix this, we need to remember that people are social animals. We respond to personal interactions and exchanges of favors, not money. “You do things for people, they do things for you, and that stuff is actually more powerful than economic incentives,” Pentland says.
Here are some ideas you can implement to motivate your employees.
Develop their skills.
Employees need to opportunity to work using their strengths and become experts on their work. Give them the resources and tools to learn new skills, and apply their knowledge and experience. “Even in most seemingly routine areas, when people are given difficult problems to tackle, with appropriate tools and support, they can do things faster, smarter, and better,” says Kanter.
Make them feel part of the company.
One of the manager’s duties is to make every employee feel welcome. Therefore, it is important to build and nurture a friendly environment where employees have opportunities, and feel free to interact across departments and can get to know each other more deeply. “Create community by honoring individuality,” Kanter says.
Give meaning to their job.
Employees are motivated only if their job matters on the larger scale. It’s been said that nobody is indispensable. However, if you make your employees feel like their role is indispensable, they will feel needed and will take their job seriously. Emphasize often the positive impact that their jobs have on social needs. Kanter writes, “As part of the daily conversation, mission and purpose can make even mundane tasks a means to a larger end.”
Regularly talk to them in person.
We all are busy with emails, writing reports, making calls, and doing actual work. Even in today’s world when people are used to multitasking with all kinds of technology and tasks, employees really appreciate it when their boss makes them feel like a person, rather than just a number. Therefore, make an effort to talk in person to each of your direct reports at least once daily, and preferably twice daily; once in the morning and once in the afternoon. A “Hello” would be sufficient sometimes. You may ask how their day is going, you can ask for a quick status on a particular project, or you can offer some quick ideas. You can also ask them what you can do to help them do their job better and/or provide a better work environment.
Have regular individual meetings
Meet regularly with each of your employees. For some employees this needs to be done once a week, while other employees would be more comfortable meeting once a month. Still others would prefer to meet once a quarter if not longer.
During these meetings, allow your employees to freely express their concerns, and to tell you what they need to be more productive and effective in their roles. Even allow them to tell you what you could do differently to help them and the company. Employees want to be heard, although they don’t expect their boss to always take their advice. Listen to them attentively; you never know what great ideas may come out from these meetings.
Encourage and foster work-life balance.
Allow your employees to set their own schedule. You may need to set certain guidelines to allow enough periods of time when people can coincide in time to have meetings and conference calls. With today’s technology, people can have a high-speed connection to the office and are able to telecommute while still being productive and effective in their roles. Telecommuting is a whole different topic in and of itself, and it deserves a full article—stay tuned. For now, suffice to say that many companies are rightfully afraid of implementing a telecommuting initiative, while some brave companies, like Bank of America, are pioneering the territory and are showing other companies how to make it work.
Empower them to make decisions.
In his book, Joy at Work, Dennis W. Bakke says that what really gives employees excitement and joy at work is the ability to make decisions. When you empower your employees to make decisions, even if they are small decisions, they feel like kings within their sphere of influence, they see meaning to their job, and they feel capable of making a difference in the company and society at large. Bakke compares this empowerment to make decisions to a basketball player who has the last shot on the last two seconds of the game. He eagerly takes the great opportunity to win the game, and he is willing to take the enormous risk and the full responsibility if he fails. Therefore, give your employees challenging, and strategic projects, and allow them to make important decisions.
Thank them often.
In addition to the previous ideas, perhaps the most important, and sure form of encouragement and motivation for employees is to show them your genuine gratitude and to give them positive feedback for their valuable contributions. You don’t have to do this every day, but you should do this often enough to maintain the motivation and loyalty of your employees. Do this in private, as well as in public, if the employee feels comfortable.
Another important category of appreciation is to celebrate project completions. In my experience, celebrating projects gives employees a great sense of accomplishment. It gives tremendous meaning to their job, and it considerably re-energizes them for the next project.
Another non-financial type of appreciation is to give your employees an additional day off, especial training, a promotion with no salary increase, a distinguished cubicle or office, etc.
If you haven’t done so, I urge you to put in practice these ideas to truly motivate your employees. I strongly recommend you do one at a time until you master it. I suggest you start with thanking them. Once you are proficient and consistent, then implement another idea, and so on.
Do you have another powerful idea on how to truly motivate your employees? Please share it in the comment area below. Thank you.
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