By Vicki M. Daughdrill
Small Business Resources LLC
At one time or another, all business owners or managers face the challenge of keeping their employees motivated and on task. We all know what happens when people lose interest in their jobs: We miss deadlines; we fail to close sales; we don't complete assigned tasks.
We also have poor morale that results in poor work, and we lose our star performers when they continually have to step up and cover for the underperformers.
To motivate means to provide incentive. In other words, when you provide motivation, you create an environment in which people will want to do what you want them to do. While an individual ultimately needs to motivate him or herself, we can create an atmosphere that encourages people to move in a favorable direction.
The first thing we need to understand is that not every individual is motivated by the same thing. Some people are motivated by job security, some by financial reward, some by personal recognition and some by professional freedom.
There are countless theories on the sources of motivation. Here is a brief overview of some of them.
Abraham Maslow is most famous for his "Hierarchy of Needs." Described in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation," the theory says there are five levels of individual needs. They form a pyramid that includes, from bottom to top, the following categories:
The question, then, is can we help individuals motivate themselves? If so, how do we do it? What if we don't have the resources to create motivation through financial incentives? Are there other tools available to help keep people motivated?
To avoid deflating your employees' enthusiasm, do the following:
The next step is to be sure you are creating the best situation possible for your employees to achieve success. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you appraise your current situation.
Once you determine whether you've been successful in creating a positive environment conducive to employee motivation, the next step is to meet with each employee individually. Get to know your employees and find out what motivates them.
For someone just beginning a career, the need for a job and income stability may override the need to work in a self-directed, incentive-based situation. Ask probing questions such as:
After meeting with all of your employees, you can determine what to offer to help motivate each one. Remember, one size does not fit all. People are motivated by different things, and it is your responsibility to determine what works best for each of your employees. Here are some types of incentives.
Now that you've determined what motivates each of your employees, how do you go about linking rewards to results?
Step one is to determine a system of measurement. Your meeting with each employee should determine goals, job requirements, quotas, resources needed and rewards. Be sure you are both on the same page and understand what is expected from each of you.
Step two is to provide feedback on each employee's performance. It is not sufficient to examine performance only during the annual performance review. Daily, weekly or monthly feedback is absolutely necessary to ensure that goals are met, rewards are received, additional resources are provided and successes are celebrated.
Step three is to reward achievements rapidly. Prompt recognition and rewards will help employees feel valued and appreciated and will ensure a continued focus on company goals.
In the current economic recession, there are ways to provide rewards and incentives that cost little or no money through the creative use of time and resources. I recommend two books for every business owner's library:
These two books offer real-world, tangible suggestions and ideas to help reward employees and keep them motivated. Some suggestions include:
Sixth century B.C. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, "A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him. But of a good leader who talks little - when his work is done, his aim fulfilled - they will say: 'We did it ourselves.'"
Take a hard look at the way you deal with your employees, and be sure you are doing everything you can to provide tools that motivate them to do what you want them to do. And to think, "we did this ourselves."
Vicki M. Daughdrill is the Managing Member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 601-310-3594.
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