Motivating employees: What every manager needs to know

The Seven Fundamentals of ManagementIt’s said that motivating employees is a lot like bathing:  The results are not permanent, but it’s something you should be doing on a regular basis. (More motivational quotes.)

Every employee can use a shot of motivation from time to time, no matter how much of a self-starter the person is.

It’s easy to tell when people are properly motivated because they:

  • Look for better ways to do a job
  • Care about customers
  • Take pride in the work, and
  • Are more productive.

What motivates employees?

The great thing about motivation that every manager can take to heart is that it is intrinsic, meaning your people already have it. You don’t have to go out and find it and bring it back. It’s already sitting right there in each employee’s hopes and dreams.

The challenge is to discover what motivates each employee, and then cultivate that.  And while you may pursue different paths to motivate different people, thankfully there are common denominators when motivating employees that work for everyone.

For instance, all employees are best motivated when they feel:

  • Trusted and empowered to the do job.
  • They are growing professionally and personally.
  • They belong, like a family member, to a worthwhile group or effort.
  • Some sense of purpose, like the outcome and what happens tomorrow makes a difference.

Trust, growth, a connection and a purpose. That’s pretty simple. Everybody wants those.

Here are four ways you can help make it happen. (Just remember to do it daily.)

1. Knowledge

Personal improvement through learning is a great intrinsic motivation. You can encourage learning by offering greater training opportunities, cross training, and especially letting your best people become trainers for others. Give people paths to learn as much as they desire about an operation or process. Your best people will embrace that learning, and use it to achieve higher goals.

2. Responsibility

This separates the hawks from the doves, the doers from the watchers. Studies show responsibility is a far greater motivator than a pay raise, which is probably not a great long-term motivator at all. Dishing out responsibility not only takes things off your platter, it also inspires talented people to take charge and become part of the management team that shapes future.

 3. Recognition

This could be a tangible prize, or a day off as part of the reward for being recognized as a premier contributor. But for many people, the internal shot of self-esteem they fell from being recognized as a valuable resource is far stronger and lasts much longer than the inspiration offered by prizes.

 4. Accomplishment

Everyone likes to stand back and admire the glow of their own achievements. Managers should stoke those fires by reminding employees of their positive accomplishments. For employees motivated by the feeling of accomplishment, a genuine “thank you” is a powerful reward. Go ahead and let people rest on their laurels, briefly! Then get back to challenging them some more.

This is the second in a series of articles on the 7 fundamentals of management. To see the other articles, please go to The 7 fundamentals of management page.

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