According to research by the Madison Performance Group, unmotivated employees can cost a single business up to $200,000 per year. It’s no secret that many large companies focus their attention on their employees, because employees are a business’ key source of success. Since they are the driving force behind your success, this means keeping employees happy and engaged, and this is where problems arise. To keep employees working well, you have to motivate them; a well-built system of employee appreciation can improve your business stats no matter what you’re working with. A motivated employee will contribute more to your profits and overall success than an unmotivated one.
There is no secret here: motivation is the path to success. However, difficulties can arise if employee motivation is not approached the right way. For example, inexperienced managers may try to find shortcuts to achieving success through motivation. If they don’t know the right way to approach this, they are liable to make mistakes, and that’s not what you want. Taking the wrong approach to your employees can lead to a dead end or give the opposite result – complete demotivation.
So, what tactics do you use to motivate staff? Which approaches work best? Which are the worst? There are tons of articles on the subject of employee motivation, but some offer deliberately misleading methods, many of them leading to dead ends.
So, WISP decided to open up the topic of employee motivation! We’ve selected ten famous methods that you’re probably familiar with, and hit them with everything we have. In other words, we researched these, so you don’t have to.
Employee motivation solves everything
Unfortunately, this isn’t true. It doesn’t.
If you consider employee motivation to be a panacea for any and all problems in your business, you will quickly find yourself in trouble. There are many examples of companies with a well built corporate culture, supported by well-designed system to encourage and support their employees — you hear about them everywhere. Inspired by these, it is comparatively easy to fall into the trap of equating employee motivation with business success. However, there are numerous factors that contribute to the overall degree of success. Organizational culture, corporate values and commitment to a common goal are just a few things that can result from good employee motivation. However, to be truly successful, you have to be organized too, and so do the processes within your company.
Some companies try to build an ‘employee heaven,’ like Google, Apple or Facebook have done, but they forget about the other essential elements a business needs to operate effectively. Don’t get blinded by trying to implement a single policy – it’s risky.
Employees should set their own goals
Sounds attractive, but this one is false too.
Some managers prefer to think that employees should set their own goals. In principle, this approach directs the employee to work the way he or she personally prefers to. However, when employees are presented with choices, they start to compete with not just your competitor companies, but with themselves and their colleagues too.
There are other risks too. Employees can set the bar too high for themselves; when they can’t achieve the desired results, they can become despondent and demotivated. The opposite case is also possible; if the bar is set too low, an employee’s productivity will suffer, or they can feel disconnected.
The harsh truth is that this approach doesn’t work the same way for every company. The majority of employees are accustomed to receiving instruction and guidance from management, and have difficulty establishing their own the work schedules. In this case, you can’t impose the freedom of choice, as you risk damaging your organizational processes. However, this approach is good for entrepreneurships that are not quite so limited by time or resources.
In most cases it’s best to just leave the organizational process to managers.
Encouraging the competition is good for motivation
The wrong approach.
There is nothing bad about the spirit of the competition in principle, especially if it helps to improve productivity.
However, it’s not the best way to go about things. Encouraging low-level competition between colleagues can work in small bursts, but nothing good is to be expected in the long-term. An environment of constant competition can wear out employees, and it prevents many from enjoying their work. Moreover, it turns coworkers from colleagues into adversaries.
So, think it through. Do you really need to go this far?
Money is the best and only motivating factor
This is a habit you’ll mostly see in Western countries; people believe that if there is a problem, it can be solved if you throw enough money at it.
It sounds great, but it’s also false.
The myth that money is a cure for everything, that it is the easy way to solve problems, especially for raising morale, takes its root in managerial practices. Some managers have gotten used to the idea that any problem can be solved with money. Raising wages is one of the fastest and easiest ways to raise an employee’s motivation, but as with competition, it’s only effective in short bursts. The incentive money creates quickly fades, and the question of motivation arises once again – so, there is no point in relying on pay increases for long-term development.
Some employees, questioned in the survey, note that money was not that important for them – they placed money midway down the list their list of priorities, noting that there are more important things they want to obtain from their jobs.
Having work is itself motivation enough
Wishful thinking, to say the least!
Many managers consider the very fact of having a job to be a powerful motivating factor, sufficient to make any employee happy. The idea is understandable, but not really true, especially if your company is located in one of the developing countries currently experiencing waves of layoffs. In order to motivate your employees properly, it is vital to consider their happiness a major priority for your business. Treat them well, acknowledge their successes, and your employees will be a reliable resource.
Anyone can be motivated to do any job
You have two choices here: either you learn hypnosis, or you turn into a tyrant. Otherwise, this claim just isn’t true.
There is a precious moment in that very first stage when a manager is interviewing a new candidate. This is a vital moment where you can see if the talent is actually interested in working with you, if there is enough motivation to do so in the first place. If in that moment you can’t see anything resembling what you’re looking for, you are better off making the break right away. This candidate may be the expert you were looking for, but it is likely that they will quickly lose interest in the job. If you’re unable to assess the candidates properly, this can lead to operational setbacks and financial losses.
Talented but uninvested staff will reach a stage where they can’t be motivated any further. The talent will be basically “lost” to your motivational bursts, and no money or improved work environment will change the situation.
If you do get caught in this negative outcome, be sure to look out for this employee – he can drag your whole team down.
You can motivate every employee the same way; they won’t notice the difference
Unfortunately, this point is inaccurate too.
Imagine a shop. You go there, and you buy something you’re personally interested in. We are used to having a choice in most cases. At the same time, remember the shops that offer you only one thing, without any alternatives or choices – we can agree that this approach leads to a dead end. The same thing is true about your staff – each and every one of them is a person with unique ideals, desires and priorities in life, so they expect personal treatment for themselves. A “take it or leave it” attitude just won’t work here; using the same reward to motivate everyone won’t work either.
Here is the secret of success for modern management: you’re a good boss if you know your employees, you know their weak spots, and you can focus on their aspirations and help them to achieve their goals. In this way, you can reward them according to their desires, and so even the grumpiest of employees will give you their best.
You shouldn’t motivate the best employees
Just think about it. Life would be so much easier if we only had to encourage weaker staff to work better. The idea that it is a waste of resources is a form of business suicide because everyone needs motivation. Is your employee smart or dumb? Clumsy or successful? Lazy or finishing tasks two months ahead of schedule? It doesn’t matter. You should encourage them all; it’s not a situation to be selective.
There is a balance, of course; you must also properly acknowledge your employees’ individual efforts, or you will bring you company’s productivity to ruin. You don’t want to risk that.
More free time for employees!
Companies are ready to go as far as possible to make their employees happy: they build kitchens, game rooms, even providing the workspace with a huge variety of coffee types for the most demanding workers. The theory is that if employees’ breaks are great, they’re satisfied and motivated to conquer the highest mountains.
Unfortunately, this one is a myth too.
Of course, no one ever said that employees don’t like coffee breaks – that would be a blatant lie. But, unfortunately, more breaks mostly means more relaxation and a decrease in motivation to work further. Everything is better when it’s balanced, so keep it that way.
Some people aren’t motivated and they can’t be motivated in any way
This is a very common misconception, which is almost always dealt with in the wrong way.
Everyone is motivated. Always. However, every one of your employees is motivated towards their own personal goals, and they aren’t necessary those of your business. Their motivation is just not directed towards your company, nor is it contributing to productivity on current work tasks.
The challenge here is for the manager to discover what actually motivates the employee and to match this up with the employee’s job description. Of course, this is assuming that the employee is worth keeping.