Apart from stress and anxiety, how to motivate people is one of the most talked about topics in Psychology. Knowing how to motivate employees is a major factor that determines whether your business hits its targets or not.
For one, motivation is a mainstay in behavior. Everything we do stems from motivation.
The concept itself is present in almost every industry.
Motivational knowledge helps industries increase productivity and improve efficiency.
Motivation affects even group behavior.
In fact, it can be powerful enough to cause social change.
For the above reasons, it’s no wonder that motivation plays a central role in the field of human performance.
Still, the enigma of motivation continues to haunt decision-makers.
How to Motivate Employees
To date, no one has figured out an absolute formula to sustain motivational levels.
However, one key element in implementation is understanding motivational theories.
By having a working knowledge on how theoretical principles manifest in practice, decision-makers can implement strategies into their employee performance programs.
Still, theoretical understanding is not enough.
If there’s one thing that’s definite in the discussion of how to motivate employees, it’s that individuals are motivated differently by many factors in selected environments.
To uncover how you, as a business leader, can help create and sustain that motivated behavior, this article is divided into three sections.
First, there’s a section about the principles governing motivation in the workplace setting.
This is for you to understand what motivation really is and how it affects organizational behavior.
Second, there’s a section about the key takeaways from relevant theories involving methods used to motivate employees.
This way, you’ll have a foundation for the strategies that you’ll be implementing.
Finally, there’s a section on some of the ways to motivate employees in order to achieve organizational expectations in employee performance.
Let’s start with the first section.
Section One. Understanding Motivation
Dictionary.com defines ‘motivation’ as ‘having a strong reason to act or accomplish something.’
If you’re motivated, then you’re bound to engage in a goal-directed behavior to get what you want or to be where you want to be.
Motivated people display different characteristics from that of a non-motivated individual.
But did you know that motivation in itself is not enough in terms of goal achievement?
In the workplace, motivation is only one of the three components that lead to or that affects performance.
The other two are environment and ability.
For the environment, it means two things.
First, it has to offer conducive elements in order to spur the feeling of motivation.
Second, it has to have the same elements in order to sustain that motivated feeling.
For both, some of these elements pertain to having the resources, support, and information that employees need in order to perform something well.
For ability, it means two things, too.
First, employees need to have the knowledge.
Second, they’d have to have the skill.
One, knowledge will tell you what employees know.
By learning what they know, you can put together a motivational strategy in order to achieve a goal.
Two, knowledge tells you how can help them acquire the necessary foundations in order to achieve a goal.
For skill, the working counterpart of knowledge, it tells employees the ‘how’ of things.
If your employees possess the skills relevant to achieving a certain goal, then they’re prone to stay motivated.
Likewise, their skill level tells them how much they can handle.
Whether or not you need to put a plan in place in order for them to learn how to do something depends on their skill level.
Again, all for the purpose of goal achievement.
For performance to manifest, motivation must be rooted in the workplace environment and amplified by employee abilities.
Now, where is motivation situated in the organizational construct?
In which area does it belong to?
To answer, let’s look at the POLC model.
POLC stands for Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling.
Under Planning, you’ll find your organization’s vision and mission, objectives, goals, and strategies.
For Organizing, you’ll find your organization’s design, your corporate culture, and your voice.
Under Leading, you’ll find leadership, decision-making, communications, and the groups or teams comprising your company.
Finally, under Controlling, you’ll find your systems, your processes, your tools, and your human resource strategies.
Motivational or performance strategies should be in a place where leadership, communication, and groups are found.
Therefore, motivation is found under the Leading component of the POLC model.
So how do you now formulate a plan to motivate your employees?
Let’s move to the next section and uncover the theoretical foundations of motivation.
Section Two. Motivational Theories
In the first section, you’ve discovered where your efforts to motivate employees should fall under.
You’ve also understood that motivation is not a standalone factor in terms of employee performance.
With these takeaways in mind, you need to figure out where motivation starts so that you can carefully craft ways to motivate employees.
In this section, you’ll go through some of the most relevant takeaways from known motivational theories on how to motivate employees.
We will not discuss these theories in detail as there are tons of literature available out there for your reference.
Instead, let’s focus on what these theories have in common and how these realizations can help you put a motivational plan into action.
Motivation is Fueled by Needs
Face this: employees work because they have plans for themselves.
They’re looking forward to their future versions of their ideal life.
Because they see that they can achieve these ideals by using their jobs as instruments, they’ll likely be motivated if your business offers conducive elements in making that happen.
Motivation is Influenced by Culture
Your company culture pretty much sets out how conducive or non-conducive your business is when it comes to motivating employees.
Your company values, your employee policies, your systems – everything that makes your organization run – is influenced by the type of culture you have.
A discouraging company culture, of course, demotivates employees.
Motivation is Facilitated by Processes
Every company has standard processes in everything that it does.
If the processes you currently have are perceived to be ‘employee-friendly,’ there’s a high chance that employees will stick around and will remain motivated.
Note that having the best processes is not the only factor in sustaining employee motivation.
Motivation is Amplified by Communication
The way to communicate with employees also influences their motivation level.
Do you talk over them or with them?
Are they involved in decision-making?
Do their opinions count concerning some decisions?
Are their opinions respected?
Do you explain to them how their efforts affect goal achievement?
Motivation levels rest on how well you communicate with them.
Motivation is Qualified by Treatment
Related to communication, adjusting the quality of treatment given to employees is one of the methods of motivating employees.
Do you reward people who have not really worked that hard and ignore those who have put in much to your company’s cause?
Do you open your doors to dialogue in order to address employee grievances?
How you treat your employees’ matters much when it comes to motivating them.
Motivation can be Intrinsic and/or Extrinsic
Employees derive motivation from inside them or take it from the outside.
Obviously, the ideal set up is for them to derive it from both.
This means that while they’re internally motivated to achieve something, the workplace must also provide an encouraging avenue in order to make that happen.
That’s why business owners devise ways in order to keep the momentum going.
Motivation is a Balance Of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards
Achieving an innate goal is enough reward for some employees.
But sometimes, employees also look for something outside of them in order to feel that their efforts are rewarded.
Recognition is powerful enough but in some cases, employees need incentives.
As a business owner, you need to know when to settle for non-monetary or monetary rewards.
That’s some of the common elements found in various motivational theories in the workplace.
For additional reading, you can look up the various needs-based and process-based theories in motivation.
Let’s move to the next section and see what specific strategies you can implement in order to motivate your employees.
Section Three. Employee Motivation Strategies
The motivational strategies you’ll find in this section are focused on the non-monetary aspects of motivation.
You’ll find out later why there’s a stress on non-monetary aspects on how to motivate employees at work.
Explain Your Company Vision, Mission, and Goals
Companies spend creative energy in crafting a striking vision, mission, and goals.
But most of them fail to communicate the value in these ‘declarations’ well.
So what if your goal has become number one in the market?
When that vision is achieved, what becomes of them?
When you explain these things to them, place them at the forefront.
This way, they’ll envision themselves to be at the moment when you proudly declare that you have achieved your vision.
Always be Inclusive
In the same way, as you’re placing them at the forefront of vision achievement, you should also involve them in every step you take as you get closer to that vision.
Do the same thing as you set about achieving smaller goals that lead to the vision.
Make them realize that they are an important element in organizational success.
In doing so, you’re giving them one gift that most businesses fail to give: relevance.
Empower Your Employees
Most employees feel that they just go to work, come home, and go to work again.
It doesn’t help that they’re confined to a certain routine and that they’re resigned to accepting their ‘fate.’
Such a feeling of resignation and irrelevance causes demotivation.
So always remind them of the value they put in your organization regardless of how small you perceive that is.
As long as what they do makes your organization run, you’re supposed to empower them.
Offer a Path for Growth
Having a clear career trajectory gives employees a reason to stay awhile and to be motivated to achieve whatever is needed in order to reach a higher point in your organization.
The absence of a career direction is one of the many reasons that people feel demotivated and look for greener pastures.
Somehow, the need for advancement is hinged on the need to do greater things.
This includes the ability to make decisions and autonomy.
Offer a path for learning
We mentioned in the previous sections that ability is one of the factors influencing performance.
If employees do not possess the knowledge or skill in order to perform something needed to achieve a goal, they’ll be demotivated.
To fill this gap, invest in training and research.
Allow your employees to gain more knowledge so that they’ll be more confident at doing their jobs.
With learning comes expertise and with expertise comes competence.
Lead by Example
If you proudly announce that in order to achieve Y, you need to do W, X, and Y, you need to make sure that you yourself are doing W, X, and Y.
If there’s a discrepancy between what you talk about and what you’re doing, employees will notice.
That’s because, in every organizational setup, people feed on what they see up above.
So when it comes to dealing with demotivated individuals, reflect on what you’re doing first because the reason might be you.
Give them Purpose
Why are they here?
What do they need to do?
Why do they need to do it?
What’s in it for them?
You don’t have to explain all the nitty-gritty past of things to your employees.
However, you need to explain the purpose of it all.
The key is to allow employees to see the relevance of what they’re doing even before they start doing it.
To start something without a purpose is useless and won’t deliver your desired results.
Why were you unable to keep your promise?
Why it is that when something suddenly changed, something was taken away?
What steps were taken behind a decision?
Get this: if employees feel that you’re hiding something from them, and if they feel that something made things more difficult for them, they can react by displaying demotivated.
So we’re on this again: involve them so that they’ll understand.
This is especially in matters of rewards – monetary or otherwise.
For example, when you implement an incentive plan, you need to be clear about the rules.
When it’s all about promotion, you need to tell them the criteria they need to pass.
If you set standards, employees are less likely to complain of uneven, unjust, or unfair treatment.
The rules should serve as self-motivation and reward to every individual.
This is related to the standards that you set.
You simply can’t bend the rules if they’re already in place and are already known just so you can accommodate someone’s wishes.
Speaking of wishes, be careful about why you accommodate.
Employee perception varies between individuals so what matters more to someone may be irrelevant to another.
If possible, you can also set the standards for allowing exceptions.
Recognize, Reward, and Release
When someone or a group in your organization has achieved a milestone, give due recognition.
When you recognize them, offer a tangible proof be it a certificate or money.
Make it a point to let everyone know about who you’re recognizing and explain why.
At times, granting an extra day off is one huge reward, especially for employees who rarely have time for themselves or for their families.
So you have a job for your team.
Delegate it to them by providing them with important instructions.
Afterward, learn how to step aside and respect their workspace.
Most business owners are micromanaging without them realizing it.
That happens when they exert control over the ‘how’ of getting things done.
Learn to let go and let your employees exercise their own strategies in doing their job.
This level of control can motivate them.
Be Creative and Unpredictable
When it comes to team motivation ideas, you can implement to spur and to sustain motivation, the sky’s the limit.
You can launch unconventional campaigns to rewards performers, you can reward them with an extra paid time off, and you can simply order a pizza for everyone.
Whatever team motivation ideas you come up with, don’t forget to inject joy in it.
When your employees see that you are happy, they will share that feeling as well.
Set Small Goals and Milestone Checks
Did you know that the closer people are to a certain goal, the higher their motivation?
Did you know that accomplishing smaller components of a big goal helps re-energize employees?
That’s because they know that their efforts are actually paying off.
If you help further encourage them by celebrating small milestones, they’ll be more receptive and become more motivated.
Get to Know Them and Be with Them
In some organizations, managers and owners don’t really mingle with rank and file employees.
They care less about their workers’ personal life.
Be concerned about your employee’s lives outside of work.
The simple gesture of asking specific questions about them lets them know that you care for them.
Going out with them also helps strengthen your relationship.
Just be in their shoes.
In all aspects of your organization, there’s one huge thing that most business owners take for granted: expressing gratitude.
A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way, especially for time-bound tasks.
Letting your employees know that you appreciate their efforts, no matter how small, has a big impact on their self-esteem and their self-confidence.
That’s especially so if you do it personally.
So where does money come in?
The Value of Money as a Motivator
There’s one thing that’s true when it comes to using money as one of your motivational strategies: it only works for those who need it.
You’ll be surprised to learn that for most employees, non-monetary-based motivation works most of the time because they’re not looking for transient rewards.
They’re looking for long-term, definite rewards such as job security, a chance for career advancement, fulfillment, and making a difference.
It’s true that money is a very scarce commodity nowadays, but remember that you’re offering a compensation package in order to take people in.
Once they’re in, you need to figure out a different way to make them stay.
That something has to be valuable that it can’t be taken away once it’s already given.
So what do all these ways to motivate employees come down to?
How do you implement a sound motivational strategy in order to feed your employee performance plan?
Do you simply implement them through trial-and-error?
The truth is, there’s a group of people who should be competent when it comes to motivating employees: your managers – the people in your organization who manage the individual frontlines.
Rank and file employees look up to their immediate managers and feed their motivation from modeling.
In return, your managers or key decision-makers in the organization look up to you to get the motivation that they need.
While the flow of motivational energy seems stratified as that of your organizational chart, it is how things ought to happen because your tasks as the business owner are totally different.
This means that you often deal with other people who may not even be a part of your organization.
Then again, it pays to rekindle your relationship with everyone in your company from time to time.
Do not allow your employees to think that you can’t get in touch with their current level.
Always remember that the ways to motivate employees are sustained with transparency.
If you create a visible line between you and your employees, everything unfavorable to them will be interpreted as anti-employee.
You need to be out there and create a positive relationship with them so that they’ll see your own commitment to your organization’s cause.
In doing so, they’ll identify with that commitment and will engage in behavior that will help you take your organization to the next level.
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