by Steve Adubato, PhD

Most people think that motivating employees is largely about how much we pay them. This is a simplistic view, which isn't particularly helpful for team leaders and managers who are trying to get the most out of their people in these most challenging of times. First of all, most organizations don't have the money to simply give more to their people. Second, employee surveys have found that at best, money is a short-term motivator, which doesn't compare to a variety of other incentives that matter to most people.

Consider this short list of people motivators:

  • Give employees AUTHORITY along with responsibility. It's easy to tell an employee they are responsible for accomplishing a particular task or goal. It's easy to say you are going to hold them accountable if they don't succeed. The hard part is giving up control and a degree of authority. A recent Gallop Survey found that 66% of employees say managers want them involved in decision making, yet only 14|% feel they have been empowered to make those decisions. Something is out of whack. Therefore, it is critical to give employees the authority to make critical decisions and encourage them to take risks. Having authority empowers people and feeling empowered is a tremendous motivator.
  • People want and need to be recognized. It's no different than when you were in third grade and you received a gold star or had your name prominently listed for some classroom accomplishment. It felt great then, and it feels just as good now. Yet, some managers fail to understand the need to recognize the accomplishments (no matter how small they seem to be) of team members. If an employee has done the work on a particular project, put that employee's name on the cover of the project report. If an employee is actually running a program, give them a title that acknowledges their efforts (director, manager, project leader, etc.). Employee newsletters, whether printed or published electronically, offer another great opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of employees. Many will hang it in their office, bring it home, tell others and feel really good about themselves. And feeling good about yourself is a tremendous motivator.
  • Keep employees in the information loop. Make sure you let your people know about critical organizational accomplishments, challenges or opportunities. Being informed gives employees a feeling of ownership over the team's destiny. Many managers let their people know when it is too late. This causes people to feel more like victims than participants. Simply put, being involved and informed is energizing.
  • Provide direct, personal feedback to employees as quickly as possible-preferably in 24 hours. Most people really want to know what their manager thinks of their work. The more detailed and constructive the feedback, the better. Handwritten comments signed by the manager are usually best, but providing feedback can also be done through e-mail. It's simple, fast and efficient, yet too many managers miss the opportunity and in turn many of their employees feel ignored. Getting constructive, tangible feedback causes most people to work harder and give more of themselves.
  • Other motivators include celebrating employee birthdays, anniversary's and work-related milestones. In addition, social and recreational activities, including employee softball and bowling leagues, create a sense of togetherness and team spirit.

Finally, saying "thank you" on a consistent basis really motivates people. It doesn't cost anything, takes little or no time, and leaves a lasting impression.

How do you motivate your employees or what motivates you to work harder and give more of yourself? Write to me.