Employee motivation describes an employee’s intrinsic enthusiasm about and drive to accomplish work. Every employee is motivated about something in his or her life. Motivating employees about work is the combination of fulfilling the employee's needs and expectations from work and workplace factors that enable employee motivation - or not. These variables make motivating employees challenging.
Information about motivating employees is readily available but it’s hard to apply the ideas in many workplaces. Too many workplaces still act as if the employee should be grateful to have a job. Managers are on power trips and employee policies and procedures are formulated based on the assumption that you can’t trust employees to do the right thing. Communication is never transparent and there is always a secret message or a hidden agenda. Motivating employees in this work environment is tough, if not impossible.
Fortunately, most work environments are not this extreme. They each have their own set of problems, but managers appreciate that motivating employees will bring positive results for the organization. These ten tips about motivating employees provide a basic understanding of employee motivation. They also target key areas for success in motivating employees.
Ten Tips About Motivating Employees
Here are ten tips about employee motivation and creating a work environment for motivating employees. This is the bottom line for motivating employees.
- Every person is motivated. Whether that motivation revolves around work, a hobby, the family, the spiritual side of life, or food, each person has some items or issues about which he or she feels motivated to take action in his or her life.
- You can’t motivate another person. You can only provide an environment at work that is conducive to and supportive of employees choosing to become motivated about issues related to work. Your actions in the workplace either encourage motivated behavior or they discourage employee motivation. In some workplaces, company policies and management behavior actually squelch motivation.
- Actions and activities in the workplace that provide an environment supportive of motivating employees don’t have to be expensive. In fact, they don’t have to cost money at all. They don’t need to involve company financed events or company sponsored parties, gifts, or monetary awards. Activities and recognition that cost money are welcomed by employees as part of the motivation mix, but their impact on motivating employees is short term and will not over-ride the consequences of how people feel treated everyday in the workplace.
- Much of the workplace environment that encourages employee motivation involves management time and commitment: genuine interest and caring, employee-oriented policies and procedures, and attention from both senior managers and line managers are all appreciated and valued.
- Motivation is prevalent in workplaces where people are treated as valued human beings. Trust, respect, civil conversation, and listening prevail in a workplace that fosters employee motivation.
- Clear direction plays a serious role in motivating emloyees. When I run polls about what supervisory behavior makes a manager a bad boss, the lack of clear direction ranks first consistently. Employees want to know exactly what you expect from them. When they have the reassurance of clear direction, motivating employees becomes easier because you and they have created a framework for their expected performance.
- Supervisors ask frequently about how they can motivate employees. Wrong question. They can’t. But, supervisors can create an environment for motivating employees. So, the right answer is that, generally, you know what you should do; you know what motivates you. You just do not consistently, in a disciplined manner, adhere to what you already know about motivating employees. To be perfectly honest, since I am often accused of viewing the world through rose-colored glasses, some supervisors just don't care. They work to collect a paycheck and all of this stuff about motivating employees is just gobbledy gook. (In these cases, are you looking for a new employer?)
- Employee motivation is a constant challenge. What motivates one employee is not motivating for another. Research indicates that while treating employees nicely is a factor in motivation and happy employees are also a factor in employee motivation, more is needed for a successful organization. After all, a workplace of happy employees is great, but it doesn’t guarantee quality products delivered on time, delighted customers, or profitability – all essential to providing those happy employees with jobs. Factors such as demanding goals, success measurements, and critical feedback ensure the organization’s success.
- Actively solicit information from the employees who report to you and from your coworkers about what motivates them. Employees know what they find motivating and they can tell you if you ask. Following through on the information you are given is key as employees test you constantly to see if your word is good. If asked, people expect to see something changed as a result of their response. If it doesn't change, and you don't tell them why, you risk wasting all of your efforts in motivating employees. Responding to employee needs and complaints is key in motivating employees.
- Motivation at work is a choice employees make. No matter how hard managers try or how supportive company policies are, there is a bottom line for motivating employees. Employees choose to exhibit motivated behavior at work. You can know and do everything discussed here, but employees are ultimately in charge of motivating themselves.