1. Get the knowledge

Find out what actually motivates people. Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation & Hygiene factors model is a great place to start, as is Adam’s Equity theory. Both can be found on www.businessballs.com Once you understand the factors that actively motivate, and the ones that simply need to be there and indeed de-motivate if absent, then your job becomes a little easier.


2. Fix the quick wins

When you’ve identified the things that are missing (Herzberg called them hygiene factors), then start looking for the quick wins. They’re usually easy to remedy, and people will notice. Think about the ripped carpet, the broken fridge in the staff coffee room, the software that’s not compatible, broken printers, slow servers or the on-line expenses form that doesn’t work. These things must be fixed, but they won’t actively motivate people.


3. Find out what people want

Ask them. Put in place a mechanism whereby your employees can tell you what they like, what they need, what they aspire to, what challenges they would like to rise to. If the mechanism is good, you’ll get useful information back. The mechanism might involve (well run) team meetings, suggestion schemes, staff surveys or opinion polls and appraisal systems. You might get some flippant ideas and remarks. So what? You’ll almost certainly get staff exercising their “employees right to whinge”. We all do it, and it’s good for us. It’s cathartic. The key here is you’ll get good ideas too. Ideas on how to sell more, how to be more efficient, ideas on better ways of working. Useful stuff.


4. Show genuine commitment to making changes

Firstly, act on the information you get – particularly for those quick wins. When Sky introduced a staff survey process, the state of the toilets came in the top five gripes. This surprised management, but they fixed the problem. More importantly, they listened to everything their employees said and took action way beyond fixing the loos. Secondly, keep at it. Keep asking and keep fixing things. Finding things out is only the beginning. All too often an organisation will launch a ‘new initiative’ or ‘roll out’ a new project, only to forget about it a short while afterwards in favour of the next ‘new initiative’.


5. Nurture your managers

Managers can really influence the motivation levels of the people they manage. They can make the difference between success and failure, between happiness and drudgery – but they need managing, and they need feedback from their own managers, their peers and their teams. Many organisations promote technically excellent people into management positions, and only then think about their skills… too late. Managers need clear management objectives and the time and skills to meet them. An accountant who is promoted to management clearly can’t do as much accountancy if he or she is to manage and motivate their team (and motivated teams perform better). South West Airlines is one of the most profitable airlines in the US. One reason is the effort and investment they put into management capability. They have more supervisors than most other airlines, and the role of these supervisors and managers is simple – it is to enable others to do their job. They’re well trained, and their whole job is to manage.


6. Own and respect your performance management system

Frederick Herzberg asserts that the key motivational factors are:

  1. Achievement
  2. Recognition
  3. The work itself
  4. Challenge & responsibility
  5. Advancement and personal growth.

A well-run performance management system offers all of these. Well defined objectives provide a challenge. Interesting work and recognition help people grow and advance their careers. Make sure your performance management is bought into by individuals and their managers, not owned by a distant department called HR.

Lack of ownership can lead to shocking errors – treat appraisals with respect. Organisations with good systems generally find that they get better results and happier staff; staff who contribute, are engaged in the work they do, and are enthusiastic.


7. Be consistent when managing people – all the time.

If objectives aren’t met, if policies or organisational principles aren’t followed people should know what to expect. Rewards and recognition should be freely given – to incentivise and encourage. Gripes about management are often linked to inconsistency in management approach.


8. Develop your people

A survey published in The Times interviewed 1000 employees from companies employing 500 + people. Many were bored and looking for another job. Lack of stimulation and no advancement were high on the list of reasons. Investing in staff development doesn’t have to involve big training programmes. Much of it can be done locally, and on-the-job. The key point is that if you’re going to stimulate people by agreeing challenging objectives, then you need to provide appropriate support.


9. Build a culture that strives for excellence

I’ve worked with companies whose party line is that their staff are happy and motivated. Ask individuals and you’ll find that whilst people are performing ok against their personal objectives, business results don’t reflect this. Why? Well partly it will be because the culture of the organisation accepts ‘OK’ rather than ‘Excellence’. People enjoy succeeding so need to work in a culture where success is encouraged. This kind of culture feeds motivated successful teams. You have to create your own culture, and this takes effort. Managers are key, and the on-going, unswerving support of senior management is Crucial.


10. Celebrate success

We learn from our mistakes, and we can learn as much from our success – if we just take the time to do so. Celebrate every success, and learn from it. The best teams in the world will freely pat themselves (and each other) on the back when they achieve good things.

Further reading: Employee Engagement & Motivation | Factsheets | CIPD

Steve Read

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