Motivation and inspiration are two leadership responsibilities that, all too often, don’t get the attention they deserve. The hiring process, and finding the right talent, is a big part of the puzzle. But motivating a team or a workforce is an ongoing challenge and a vital priority for anybody who wants to be a world-class leader.
Finding thoughtful ways to motivate your team is great for the bottom line, too, since it directly connects to the success of your company. If you’re wondering how to achieve better motivation and inspire your team to be their best selves, here are some places you can start.
1. Set Clear and Measurable Goals
Employees and teams need to know they’re working toward something concrete — or else what’s the point of showing up? Sometimes, company leadership knows exactly what the big picture is and how they want to get there. Other times, the intermediate steps, or goals, might be up to your team to figure out. Either way, the job of a leader is to help make the mission clear for all the people working on it — and then turn that mission into specific and measurable incremental goals.
The question is, what makes a good goal? It’s a benchmark that is specific, time-bound, easily measurable and, most importantly, realistic. Your team needs to be able to clearly picture how their daily work fits into the bigger picture, and they want to know the work they do is relevant. Coaching on goal-setting is a critical piece of motivation many workplace leaders don’t spend enough time thinking about.
2. Offer Face Time and Regular Feedback
We can thank millennials in part for this shifting sentiment, but a majority of employees these days — 65 percent by some accounts — want more feedback on their work than they currently receive. It’s not hard to imagine why. If clear-eyed and transparent goal-setting is priority one, cluing employees in on their performance, and their standing in the company, is the second-most-important objective for drumming up motivation.
Inertia is a dangerous thing in the workplace. But wise leaders can fight that feeling by checking in regularly, making themselves more accessible and offering feedback that’s informal, personalized, honest and frequent. Without this kind of dialogue, employees won’t have a chance to share their thoughts, either. Feedback is a two-way street, after all, and both parties benefit from an ongoing conversation.
If you feel your teams are merely going through the motions, rediscover the motivational power of one of the oldest techniques in the book: Try talking more.
3. Promote Flexibility and Work-Life Balance
One of the reasons your workers might feel disconnected and unmotivated could be that they want to do their work on their terms, but have no real options to do so. Though it is a fairly modern phenomenon, it’s possible to perform a huge variety of workplace functions from the comfort of home. It’s become common enough, and obtainable enough, that decisive majorities of millennials, generation Xers and baby boomers alike now wish to work remotely at least part of the time.
Offering more flexible workdays and remote work opportunities is one of the best ways to inspire productivity and a motivated spirit. Not surprisingly, employees who’ve achieved a more peaceable balance between their life at home and their life at work find themselves more motivated, more engaged and generally more satisfied with their careers.
4. Compensate Them Fairly
In 2017, according to the Federal Reserve, 40 percent of Americans would have significant difficulty coping with an unexpected $400 expense. It would be a mistake to write this off as a political issue, rather than a humanistic one. It’s the responsibility of any leader to know what their employees take home and to consider what their time would be worth if the tables turned on them. In surveys spanning the Atlantic Ocean, hiring managers revealed mediocre compensation is the reason 45 percent of employees change jobs.
There are multiple types of “compensation,” too — and some of them may be more valuable than a paycheck. Paid holidays, paid parental leave, paid health care, ample sick days and flexible schedules are all slightly less tangible than a bi-weekly paycheck, but these can be some truly motivating factors when your team members find themselves considering a career change.
With this issue, as with the others, the benefits don’t belong to the employee alone. Employee turnover is costly for any type of business — $15,000 for an employee who earns $45,000 per year — and often preventable. If your company is worried about employee motivation, remember these numbers. Employees who feel their employer values and fairly compensates them stick around longer, are more engaged with their work and, ultimately, cost less in the long run.
5. Provide a Work Environment Worthy of Employee Pride
Finally, let’s talk about another piece of the motivation puzzle that flies under the radar: a healthy work environment. But what do we mean by “healthy?”
If your company struggles with motivation, it’s worth asking whether your workplace is conducive to creative thinking, satisfaction and even pride in one’s job. The most motivated employees are those who feel their employer reflects their values and even their personalities in some way. It should be a place that prioritizes personal space, air quality, low noise pollution, natural light and many other factors. If you want to know more, consider circulating a survey among your teams to find out what your employees want from your office space and what they’d change.
No, it might not make sense to buy a jukebox or wave pool for your break room. But there are many other changes you can consider, ranging from instituting a potted plant policy all the way to rethinking furniture choices and considering alternate layouts that emphasize privacy or noise control. Even something like encouraging employees to listen to music — or loosening your restrictions on doing so — could help your teams rediscover their motivation and look forward to arriving at work for a fresh set of reasons.
This suggestion, like the others here, offers a relatively low-cost way to bolster employee engagement and ensure you’re getting the best performance possible out of your team. The most important thing to remember is people thrive best when you treat them like — well — people.