We hear a lot in management circles about work incentives and employee motivation.
Offer rewards for work, the articles will tell you. Make a point of giving praise, they say. They suggest bonding exercises and monetary incentives and recognition in the company newsletter – but most of them miss out on the key factors in employee motivation.
But It’s more than just rewards – it’s a function of how you manage and the atmosphere that you promote among your team. If you step back from the experts for a moment and listen to your common sense, you’ll learn more about motivating your employees than you will in a raft load of articles on how to bond your workgroup into a winning team.
1. Model the behavior that you want to see.
How many times have you heard ‘do as I say, not as I do’? If you’re a do as I say manager, your employees will rightfully mistrust what you tell them. If you expect your employees to give 110%, you have to be right up to your elbows beside them. If you expect them to respect each other and be accountable for the work that they do, you have to be accountable and treat them with respect.
2. Offer feedback, not praise.
It’s a fact of human life – we all work better when our work is noticed, but hollow praise starts to ring false very quickly. Be specific with your praise AND your criticism. Your employees will learn from both, and your compliments will carry far more weight when they know that they’re sincere.
And while you’re at it, learn the value of the offhand compliment. It’s one thing to compliment a team member in a meeting or during an evaluation – it’s expected. When you’re pouring milk into your coffee and say, “By the way, that was an impressive presentation the other day. You really nailed it.” it will be remembered and appreciated far more because of the informal setting.
3. Involve them in goal setting and planning.
Over and over, it’s been proven that people work hardest towards goals when they have a hand in deciding them. Many managers and employees see project planning meetings as an interruption and a nuisance – but they can be a powerful motivator as well as a meter for adjusting goals when necessary. When each member of your project team can see how their piece of the work fits into the whole, he has more motivation to hold himself accountable for delivering quality work on time.
There’s a fiction that socialization and productivity are natural enemies. One of the best ways to encourage collaboration is to provide comfortable spaces for it to happen. Something as simple as putting a table and chairs in the coffee room pays off in impromptu brainstorming sessions during coffee breaks.
5. And don’t forget the rewards.
When your team hits a milestone, completes a piece of the project ahead of schedule or otherwise meets or outdoes your expectations, break out the rewards. Treat everyone to lunch, take them out for a drink after work or play hooky for the afternoon as a team.
Those are the kind of rewards that cement a team, and give them more reasons to keep living up to the high standards that you expect.