Friday 27 March 2015


When the work seems trivial, it's hard to keep employees going. Whether it's because they're bored, they're not invested, or they just don't like their work, you're up against the same beast: a lack of motivation. However, it's not about the work: it's about the environment you create. Create the right one, and you'll have happy, motivated employees, who find it easy to be productive and content.

Part 1 of 3: Motivating Them as a Team

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Utilize an employee incentive compensation program. Instead of increasing wages (which no boss wants to hear), start an employee incentive compensation program, like an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP). This way, when the company does well, the employees all benefit, from the CEO to the warehouse workers. Since they want to reap the benefits, they’ll be motivated to do their part to make that happen. In their minds, right now their paycheck comes whether the company soars or not – this way, its success affects them, too.
  • This can (and should) be a program that gives them incentive they can share with their families, which has been seen to be an incredible motivator across companies.[1] For those that are adults with families to support, it can be a huge reason to stick around for the company if their families benefit, too.

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    Help them see why their work is important. Presumably, the company was started for a larger reason than just getting a paycheck. Maybe the higher-ups see that, but for employees, every day is just the humdrum of the everyday. It’s work, work, and more work. Make sure they see how their work gets the company to its end goals and how valuable that is. You may be surprised that it’s not even something they think about.
    • Let's say you need to motivate your staff at McDonald's. They're flipping burgers and getting pretty tired of it. Remind them that in addition to getting a paycheck, they're working for a larger cause: getting people tasty food quickly – and cheaply, too. They're helping out all the people whose lives are stressed for time or money. This gives them a reason to work – because they may not have one.
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    Make it clear how important each step is to the bigger picture. It’s easy for employees to look at data input, for example, and slack off because it "doesn’t really matter.” However, if step 1 isn’t completed, step 2, 3, 4, and 5 can’t be completed either. Make it clear that every little thing they do helps the company be more successful.
    • Be sure to share with your employees the vision for the company, letting them know what exactly they're working on and why. When they don't know what their work means to the company, they've no reason to be motivated to do it.
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    Keep the work environment happy, clean, and fun. Imagine a group of people who work in an office full of gray cubicles with no art on the walls, where the copiers are out of ink and the coffee maker hasn't worked in weeks. How happy are they going to be? Not very. Make sure coming to work is fun to keep them motivated – here are a few ideas:
    • Get color on the walls in the form of art and motivational posters
    • Have dress-up days with themes (pajamas to work, anyone?)
    • Bring a special breakfast into the office one day a week routinely
    • Make sure all the equipment is working to keep work easy to complete
    • Have in-house activities, like games and get-to-know-yous for morale
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    Start the day with a team huddle. Every sports team starts in the locker room for a pep talk for a reason – it gets them in the zone and centered on what they need to do. Just 10 or 15 minutes each morning dedicated to how awesome the team is doing and what they’re doing today to be even ‘’more’’ awesome will not only get them jazzed for work, but help them feel appreciated, too.
    • Don't hesitate to take a couple of minutes of talking about "how" everyone is, too. When you get a chance to personally see that Sally is trying to type between coughs and sneezes, you can let her know that she should take it easy. This lets her know you care and gives her a reason to work hard – she wouldn't want to disappoint someone who cares about her and her performance.
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    Give employees “project promotions.” Say Dave comes to you with a really great idea for a side project. Instead of saying, “Yeah, Dave! Go for it!” (which is fine), say, “Dave, you’re fired from your normal job. You are now CEO of Side Project #1. Show me what you can do!” And Dave will eat it up.
    • We all need a sense of importance. When you have a large team that is all essentially doing the same thing, people start thinking they don't matter because it's the logical conclusion. Giving them little promotions and encouraging side projects is an easy way to get around that.
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    Involve them in decision making. Companies make dozens of decisions every day. Often, this is without even talking to the employees, and sometimes without even letting them know of the changes. This makes them feel incredibly isolated and undervalued, so do away with this by involving them in the process. They can bounce around ideas and shoot out potential solutions (and some might be ‘’very’’ good) – and you can take them or leave them.
    • It doesn't matter if the ideas are implemented, just that they were involved. The employees should feel as if they're on the same page as everyone, not that they're left behind. If they feel left behind, they'll eventually stop bothering to follow at all.

Part 2 of 3: Motivating Them Individually

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    Equip every individual for their job. When a team member feels incompetent or insecure about his or her job performance, their job performance suffers. They don’t try as hard as they’re just not happy. Avoid this by ensuring they’re equipped for their job. Give them workshops, seminars, and coaching to keep them on the right track.
    • Ideally, your work organization already has this – it's just a matter of knowing who to utilize it for. When you start getting feedback from your employees, you'll know exactly who needs what.
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    Use gags and gimmicks as status symbols. You know how in grade school your teacher would give you gold stars for doing a good job? Now that you're dealing with adults, nothing's changed. Humans are pretty simple when it comes to some things, and little status symbols can be quite meaningful. Here are some ideas:[2]
    • A plastic whale for a "whale" of a job
    • A Pillsbury doughboy for the person "raising the most bread"
    • Cardboard stars colored or spray-painted for star-studded performances
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    Latch onto their personal motivators. If you listen to a person for just a few minutes, it won’t be too hard to figure out what gets them energized. Sit down with each employee and just get them talking about their work and the company. What bothers them? What do they see in the future? What are they excited about?
    • For example, knowing that Jose is excited about the company expanding to different countries, you could get him started on an international project – and that means Jose will be happy and stick around. Things like this can largely reduce employee turnover, too.
    • Keep an eye out for personal triggers, too. Does Jose hate mornings and in general feel a lag in his productivity? Tell him that it’s fine if he comes into work an hour or so late – as long as he keeps up the good work, of course!
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    Listen to what they're saying. Employees aren't monkeys that should be left in a room for 8 hours a day to press buttons. They’re not robots who tick away happily until their batteries need replacing. They’re people who need to feel like they matter. The easiest way to do that that’s 100% free? Just listen to them. Start a casual chat once in a while, making it clear that you care about their happiness. In this instance, a little goes a long, long way.
    • You have power in this situation. What can you do to make them happier? If there's something you can do, do it! Because a happy employee is motivated, does work they're proud of, and, through it all, sticks around.
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    Respect them as real, individual people. There are too many people out there that take their power and abuse it. Just because your staff is “below” you doesn’t mean they do not deserve to be respected. If you were in their shoes, how would you want to be treated? Not respecting your employees as individuals that are trying to do good work is one of the most demotivating things you can do to them.
    • If you were in their position once, think back to what it was like. What kind of boss did you wish you had? What kind of boss would make you want to work?
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    Give them praise. Everybody wants to know how they’re doing, and everybody ‘’really’’ wants praise. Take a minute out of our day (as consistently as possible) just to say, “Keep it up!” This lets the employees know you’re aware of the work that you’re doing (holding them accountable) and makes them feel proud of themselves (keeping them going).
    • Do this in front of everyone. This has a number of effects: it makes the other person feel like the big kahuna, it makes everyone else crave that same praise, and for those that have heard it before, it makes them harken back to their praise, raising their moods, too.

Part 3 of 3: Motivating Them Yourself

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    Listen to what they think needs improvement. Employees see a different side of the company than you do. Because of this, they’ll have a better idea of what needs improvement on their end. Often, these ideas will make their jobs easier, leading to more productivity.
    • Whether it's a more reliable copier or a different manner of invoicing, remember that small holes sink ships, and small fixes keep them afloat. Try to implement as many of their ideas as possible – not only to increase workflow but also to make them feel valued and listened to.
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    Keep the feedback coming. Whether it’s positive or negative, employees need to know how they’re doing and that they’re on the right track. Structure allows them to breathe easier. With feedback, they know exactly what is expected of them and in what areas they can improve upon. This makes you happier too, getting your point across!
    • Be sure to keep the feedback personal. Don't parade about talking about how great one employee is while not giving praise to the others. And the opposite is even more true: don't berate a person openly. They'll feel dejected, unmotivated, and downright terrible.
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    Invest in your employees’ lives. Mentor, coach, and align them for the future. To make them into a valuable employee, they need skills they can use for a long time coming. Give them opportunities to better their entire lives, not just to keep them punched in doing overtime. When they have a gig that gives them life skills, they'll see the value in their work.
    • Make it clear you’re interested in their work-life balance. Investing in their lives also means investing in their happiness. This can range from asking questions about their families to going out to happy hour to initiating a work trip. You want balanced, unstressed individuals as employees, not unmotivated drones who count the seconds ticking by.
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    Make everything personal. Getting an automatic email from your company saying, “Wow! You’ve worked a million hours for us! Thanks!” is nice, sure (if you know the HR department perhaps), but getting a hand-written note from your boss (even if you don’t know him or her) would mean the world.
    • Take these little opportunities, from birthdays to congratulations to condolences. When your employees can feel your presence, they'll feel like they're a valued part of the company – after all, why else would you spend this time on them?
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    Be a little weird. Imagine a boss who comes to work every day in a suit and tie, goes straight to his office, and only calls you in when he’s giving you a performance review. Fun, huh? Now imagine a boss who, once in a while, comes to work in a monkey outfit, gives everyone bananas, and throws impromptu meetings every so often (sometimes in the monkey outfit) to talk to his team, get a feel for how things are going, and update everyone on where the company is at. Which boss would make you want to come to work?
    • Okay, so you don’t have to wear a monkey outfit. But coming to work with a box of banana cream donuts wouldn't hurt!
    • Take part of your lunch break to crack jokes with your team. Laughter is contagious and can keep everyone's spirits up under the pressure of work and deadlines.
    • Let them see you as a person, quirks and all. Making yourself real will turn you into a person with feelings whom they respect and don't want to disappoint.


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