Keeping Staff Motivated

By rewarding effort, not just outcome

The greatest single obstacle to the success of any business is the mismatch that occurs between the behaviour we need from our people and the way we reward them.

Motivation is harder in today’s business climate. Not because people are under more pressure (people are always under pressure – that’s not new), but rather because the pressure is different – and it is igniting feelings of uncertainty that people haven’t felt in a long time – if ever. It was not that long ago that many industries had a steady in-flow of customer. Now, that work flow has slowed down and, in some cases, almost stopped. In response. we are now required to be a lot more proactive with our existing clients, become involved in lead generation, attend networking functions, up-size or value add our sales/rapport building skills, and get back on the phone. Less work, less leads, and (a lot) more rejection are now a daily pressure…and many people are not prepared to handle it.

The main symptom is an increase in personal frustration and a reduction in motivation. Not only does this measurably impact productivity and profitability of your business, but it also impairs the morale and motivation of the culture. To spark motivation to achieve something, people need to feel that their efforts are being noticed and bringing them closer to their targets. The traditional approach of setting a target and providing incentives to reach it, won’t be enough in today’s climate. This was fine when the goals were attainable. Now, the effort (and resilience) required to reach those targets is exponentially bigger, making them feel unreachable and, thus, people are giving up on being able to reach them.

For people to feel motivated, they need a to feel a sense of accomplishment even when they aren’t achieving the outcome they want. Therefore the focus needs to shift from only rewarding outcome to include rewarding effort.

The things that get rewarded get done!
People need to feel a sense of accomplishment for the consistent effort they put in regardless of the outcome. For example, if you need to contact 50 clients with enthusiasm, your 47th call needs to emanate the same enthusiasm as your first call did – even if you have faced 46 replies of ‘no’. THis is only achieved if you are felling a sense of accomplishment just for making the calls – regardless of the outcome.

Reward goal-focused activity
Set an activity goal. Whether it is making calls, contacting clients, etc. If the activity brings you closer to your target it can be measured and rewarded. ENsure that people fell a sense of ‘moving forward’ based on the activity they are generating.

Reward attitude and ambition
Negativity can spread like a virus through your workplace. It is easy to become part of the doom and gloom and form a culture based on self-pity and whining. We need to reward those who are prepared to break away from the negativity and stay committed to their vision and sense of purpose.

Reward risk taking instead of risk avoiding
We all have a tendency to avoid making mistakes. It’s a natural part of being human. We all want recognition and acceptance and one sure way of achieving this is to ‘look good’ and don’t do anything ‘wrong’ that will attract attention or criticism. Many businesses operate under the ‘go ahead and do it, but don’ do anything wrong’ rule. Successful businesses encourage people to take smart risks, give them boundaries to work within and realise that making intelligent mistakes are part of the price you pay for personal and company growth. Every time you try something new you run the risk of failure. Worse than this, is the consequence of not taking risks…boredom, frustration, stagnation and ultimate decline in company performance.

Reward applied creativity instead of mindless conformity
It’s true that no business can be effective without a certain amount of conformity and good systems. However, the important capital asset is not money, buildings or equipment, but ideas! Back in 1976 a young engineer got bored with the repetitive routine of installing computer chips and asked his bosses if he could design a personal computer. His bosses said not. Undeterred he built his computer from hone and named it Apple…

Anybody can come up with new ideas. All you need to do is gather people around and brainstorm solutions to a problem. You will be surprised at just how creative your people really are! In a lot of cases, management asks for new ideas and quickly rejects them or the people who come up with new ideas are not rewarded; instead those with the ‘proper’ credentials are given the accolades. The key is to create an environment that encourages new ideas and make innovation and continuous improvement part of everyone’s job.

Reward decisive action instead of paralysis by analysis
Good managers promote innovation and growth by giving their staff the freedom to decide and act. They tell their people to ‘make up your mind and do it. If it isn’t working out, fix it or try something else. The key here is not to penalize for making a bad decision but reward for taking action.

Reward simplification
With success usually comes complexity. You hire more people and create new systems and procedures to handle the complexity – which leads to things becoming more complicated. The paradox which faces management is to keep everything as simple as possible so people can get on and do their jobs. The advantages of a trim organisation, is that it is more responsive, flexible and better equipped to cope with change and seize opportunities.

Simplify jobs
– what results do I produce in my job?
– why am I producing them?
– what am I doing that is unnecessary?

Simplify procedures and controls
– can we eliminate it?
can we combine two or more steps?
can we change the sequence of the steps to make it more efficient?

Simplify communication – the current business environment thrives on knowledge and producing volumes of information. The challenge is dealing with information overload which can confuse and immobilize people. We all need to work hard at keeping our communication as simple but as informative as possible.

Reward quietly effective behaviour instead of the squeaky wheel
Every business needs reliable people who know their jobs and do them without calling a lot of attention to themselves. Too often the deeds of the quiet heroes are drowned out by the squeaky joints who spend their time talking about how great they are. Most people don’t mind working hard, so long as they receive due recognition for their efforts, rather than feeling like they are being taken for granted, used or exploited. Before you know it, the quiet achiever will move on looking for recognition of their efforts elsewhere and you’ll be left with an expensive squeaky wheel.

Business owners need to look more closely at where the results are coming from. Has someone delegated a large proportion of their work to someone else so that they can concentrate on the flashy project? Who is rarely if ever absent? Who can you count on to take up the slack when someone else is absent or on holidays? Resolve to spend time encouraging and rewarding dependable people. Remind yourself just who is important, loyal and fully dedicated to the organisation.

Reward loyalty instead of turnover
We hear a lot of business owners lament in saying that they can’t understand why young people aren’t more committed to work. Every business needs loyalty, but few actually reward it. Instead they hire, fire and manipulate people according to current economic needs. Worse yet, many organisations encourage people to be disloyal. Often the most recent hired gets paid the most. Overlooking the loyal long-term employee’s salary can cause resentment and guarantee the loss of a great member of staff. Advancements and career paths promised at the initial interview go to outsiders rather than promoting from within. Sometimes the only way to get a pay rise is under threat of leaving for a better offer elsewhere.

The key to getting loyalty is by following a very simple principle: you get loyalty and commitment from people by giving it to them.

If you ask employees who say they are loyal to their employer, they will say they belong to an organisation that cares about them, challenges them, believes in them and wants the best for them, not just as employees but as human beings. Employee loyalty and dedication doesn’t just happen. Management must make it happen. Here are the basics that you need to get right:

  • Provide job security
  • Build trust by keeping channels of communication open and clear
  • Promote from within
  • Invest in the long-term growth and development of your people
  • Pay and benefits must be perceived as fair
  • In short, treat people as you would like to be treated (think about how you would cope if they left)

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