It’s one of the most common and frustrating questions for every manager: How do you motivate your employees to go the extra mile?
When you consistently read research about how most employees hate their jobs, what can you do to stand out from the rest?
It’s a legitimate concern, and one that still needs a lot of work.
Many managers cling to old-school tactics about how to motivate employees and ultimately end up demotivating them further.
What you want to do, is create an environment where employees are genuinely curious to learn more and grow. An environment where they seek out knowledge on their own and are actively working towards making your organization better.
This is obviously easier said than done, but one interesting piece of research from motivating students in classrooms might help you get started.
Research has shown that students are more likely to want to learn when the classroom environment is “supportive of a learning climate”.
What that means is an environment where students are encouraged to ask questions (without retribution), offering help and support to students (but giving them enough autonomy to work on their own), and establishing trust in the classroom.
In this post, we’ll look at the reasons why employees get demotivated, the biggest myth about employee motivation, and share a few tips to help you motivate your employees.
Why Employees Get Demotivated
Before we look into ways to motivate employees to work harder, I thought it might be a good idea to understand some of the reasons why employees get demotivated in the first place.
David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind, and Michael Irwin Meltzer at Harvard Business School wrote an incredible article (highly recommended reading) called Why Your Employees Are Losing Motivation.
The great majority of employees are quite enthusiastic when they start a new job. But in about 85 percent of companies, our research finds, employees’ morale sharply declines after their first six months—and continues to deteriorate for years afterward…
The fault lies squarely at the feet of management—both the policies and procedures companies employ in managing their workforces and in the relationships that individual managers establish with their direct reports.
Here are a few main reasons why employees lose motivation.
Lack Of Recognition
Employees need to feel like you notice all the hard work they put in. When they feel like they aren’t getting the recognition they deserve (and this could just be a perception problem), then they’ll start to lose motivation.
Lack Of Progress On Tasks
People need to feel like they’re making progress on something they’re working on. If a project or job they’re doing has no real end in sight, they can easily become demotivated.
Researchers at Northwestern’s Kellogg School Of Management found that people will have high motivation at the beginning and end of a project, but in the middle of the project, the motivation was the lowest.
“We showed that participants exhibited a tendency to focus on the initial state as the standard of reference at the beginning of goal pursuit, but then shifted their focus to the desired end state as the end neared,”
At the root of micromanagement is an issue of trust.
Employees need to have autonomy in order to feel motivated at work. If they can’t make a move without you stepping in, they won’t be able to get motivated.
Remember, people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.
No Trust In Leadership
It’s hard to be motivated if you don’t like what the company or its leaders stand for.
If a leader does something that doesn’t align with an employee’s values like something illegal, immoral, or unethical, it can easily make employees lose motivation.
Lack Of Growth
An employee can easily lose their motivation if they become bored and don’t see any real progress in their life/career.
If an employee plateaus and stops being challenged at work, they’ll lose their motivation easily. That’s why it’s so important to make continuous learning part of your culture.
The Biggest Myth About Motivation
The biggest myth about motivation by far is that money is the best motivator.
The reason this is such a commonly used motivation tactic is that it’s so easy to do. The thinking is, just throw money at the problem and it will go away.
But the research is incredibly clear on this. Money, and almost any external reward (with a few exceptions) will actually lower motivation.
What ends up happening when you introduce an external reward is that people attribute the behavior to the external reward rather than the intrinsic value of the action itself.
According to one study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:
“the more people are driven by a desire to be wealthy, the poorer their psychological health on a range of measures.”
Don’t get me wrong, money is important, but only up to a certain point.
Tips To Motivate Employees
Here are a few simple tips that you can use to motivate your employees and get your team to go the extra mile for you.
Change The Role Of The Most Motivated Employee
This is an interesting tip that’s backed by some research.
You likely have one or two employees on your team that you know right away are more motivated than others. Your top performers. Your “internal champions”.
A study finds that teams work better when the team member who shows the most willingness to go above and beyond their job description is in a position where they come into contact with as many teammates as possible.
If you can somehow alter the role of those employees to make them more centralized to the other employees, the entire team is likely to be more motivated.
Help Employees Build Relationships
Part of increasing motivation is creating an environment where everyone gets along and everyone enjoys being there with each other.
You should work hard to create an environment where coworkers can foster relationships. Go out for team lunches, organize team building activities, and make your culture as inclusive as possible.
Set Clear Goals For Your Team
Employees will be motivated when they know they are working towards a common goal together, and that goal is very clearly defined.
It’s also important to break the goal down into smaller, more measurable tasks and then celebrate those small wins so that you can maintain a consistent level of motivation.
Show Employees Why They Matter
One thing we do at Officevibe is have a Slack channel specifically for all the testimonials or customer love that we get. It’s incredibly motivating for everyone on the team, from marketers to developers, to be able to see how their work actually affects people.
You don’t have to use Slack to do this, but find a way to show employees why their work matters.
Give Regular Recognition
In that Harvard Business School article I referenced earlier, they found that recognition (or lack of it) is a serious issue.
About half of the workers in our surveys report receiving little or no credit, and almost two-thirds say management is much more likely to criticize them for poor performance than praise them for good work.
Also, a study called The Carrot Principle found that the single most common thing the best managers did was regularly offer recognition to their employees.
Give Frequent Feedback
If an employee is clueless about where they stand, they’ll lose motivation very easily.
You need to be giving employees feedback frequently, and you need to be specific with your feedback. Help them get better. The feeling they’ll get when they understand that you’re trying to help them will make them get motivated.
The trick is to give feedback frequently and not once a year at an annual review or something.
How Do You Motivate Your Employees?
Any tips or tricks we should know about? Let us know in the comments below!
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