Mar 282007

It is not a secret that many managers find assisting, supervising or directing their employees a frustrating task. Given the prevalence of management books, courses, articles and the evolving nature of human relationships the effort apparently is not becoming any easier. Yet, there have been numerous studies and surveys in recent years basically telling us what it is that motivates employees. The answers are not surprising. They confirm what we have already suspected.

Employees are not motivated by fuzzy intangibles. Motivational gurus conducting training or vague promises of the future do not motivate employees. Here is what polls and surveys tell us actually makes employees happy, ego productive, ergo valuable:

Number 1: Money – Saving money by underpaying salaries is not only stupid, but also counterproductive to the business. Employees who do not get paid well lose their motivation, productivity and help you to consequently lose staff. If paying fair wages is impossible, then managers, department heads and business owners need to think out of the box. We are talking about work flexibility, time for personal projects or extra vacation time.

Number 2: Respected – This one is in many ways the easiest to achieve, although one has to bear in mind that different people have different needs and react differently to different things. Managers need to figure out to what individual (not the department or the company) employees respond and personalize the way they tell respective employees they are appreciated. If a public shower of confetti is not be the way to go, then it might be time to ask the employee what he or she would like to see and hear. Hey, perhaps the employee would like paid time off to attend a special course or training. This is possibly the ultimate win-win.
Hint: Show appreciation; do not feed egos and alienate people with random acts of silliness like the granting of a vanity parking space. Centre in on how to make a personal connection with your team.

Number 3: Promotion – many managers preach this, but do not act upon the mantra. Apparently, management often finds that the grass (talent) is greener (smarter) outside one’s own company. Managers need to ask themselves whether it is really intelligent to hire someone from outside into a top position and create resentment at the same time? Are the skills truly not available in-house especially if the newly subordinated have to train the new person? An outside hiring is often justified based on new developments, geographical limitations and unforeseen business imperatives, but there are few reasons why an outside hiring is called for outside those areas.

Number 4: Health – This surprisingly is rated fourth, perhaps because employees are people and people take it for granted. Healthy and happy people are more productive and more liable to contribute positively to the work place. Managers need to help their staff catch up on sleep, exercise, have fun and remain healthy. Hot-dog Fridays? So 1979. Fruit-bowl Afternoons? Now we are talking.

Number 5 – Information – Managers need to think proactively about connecting their teams with the company by keeping them informed and being honest. Employees cite being informed and in-the-know as one factor in terms of their happiness and identifying with their managers. Let everyone (even the quiet guy in the corner) know where he or she stands, what is expected of him or her and how he or she can attain even more. Nip rumours in the bud. Then ask them how this measures against their perception of themselves, you and the company and ask them to compare it to their vision and plans. Furthermore, managers can delight their staff by genuinely asking for employee input, but only if there is a plan for implementing much of it. Otherwise, the lack of follow-up will give rise to cynicism. Talk about backfiring!
Information, of course, is need to keep employees abreast of their positions and assure them that they are being treated fairly and objectively.

It is essential that managers listen to what their employees say brings them happiness. It is also vital that the above be considered and acted upon proactively. It is easier to keep staff happy than restore the outlook of dejected individuals. That is why managers should zoom in on why employees stay with a company, rather than why they leave.

*Things That Need To Go Away: Hawaiian shirt/casual/jeans days

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