As managers it’s essential to motivate staff, but what’s the best way?

Motivating employees can be challenging when the going gets tough with heavy workloads, shifting priorities, changing environments and pending deadlines. You may think you always build in time to motivate staff, but do you?

As recruiters we talk to jobseekers about what motivates them. Based on thousands of conversations, we’ve compiled this list of motivators. They might not all suit your organisation, but our bet is that several will.

Praise and say thanks

Everyone wants to know when they’ve done a good job. While saying thanks and giving honest praise doesn’t cost anything or take much time, it makes a massive difference. This includes thanking employees one-on-one, but also in front of others.

Encourage autonomy

No employee likes to work for a control freak who looks over their shoulder and criticises everything. Employees grow by working independently. This might not always be possible, but micromanaging doesn’t make employees happy. Give them space to work autonomously and support when needed.

Incorporate work-life balance

Employees don’t want to be driven into the ground. Happy employees have healthy work-life balance. There may be times when you’ve got to call on employees to put in extra effort but if this is regular, it won’t be long before your employees get sick and look for other opportunities.

When employees go the extra mile, acknowledge them with a reward, even a hand-written thank you card. This goes a long way to showing appreciation.

Show support

If you’re in the thick of a major project, show your support by being on hand to help. Employees don’t appreciate putting in blood, sweat and tears when you’re coming in late and leaving early.

Also do a walk-about to say thanks while staff are under the gun. Order in lunch, morning or afternoon tea. Make sure employees are hydrated by filling up water bottles. Small things count in big ways.

Talk to employees about what they want

Instead of imposing what you think motivates employees, talk to them about what they want. Here are eight perks employees love, besides money.

Be open to ideas and concerns

If you don’t listen to staff or allow them to express ideas or concerns, you’ll soon have a disgruntled team. Being open can be as simple as having an anonymous suggestion box. On a deeper level, it involves letting employees know they can talk to you without being judged. Act on concerns, in a fair and open way. Some concerns can be dealt with quickly and at no cost. Others take time to implement. Some might not be feasible. Whatever the case, close the loop with employees so they know they were heard.

Share suggestions made and how they were implemented. This encourages other staff to make suggestions. It also reinforces that you’re listening.

Be fair and equitable

If you favour some employees, you’ll find yourself in hot water. Double standards destroy office morale. And don’t think employees won’t notice. Conduct a reality check of your performance to ensure you’re impartial, fair and just.

Also set standards so you don’t forget.  Make sure everyone gets a birthday card, for example. Provide rewards like gift vouchers and hold annual awards.

Be honest and transparent

You may believe praising an employee for the sake of giving praise is great, but is it? Employees want managers to be honest and constructive. They want managers who support them to learn and grow.

Make your workplace inviting

A pleasant, functional workplace is beneficial to employees. You don’t need to spend a motza to make your workplace inviting. Sprucing up space has impact. Even a tidy up will help. Small things also make life better, like plants, filtered water or a coffee machine.

Invest in what employees need to be effective

Giving employees what they need to be effective doesn’t have to cost an arm-and-a-leg. Ask employees what would make them more efficient and support them to get there. It could be installing additional computer screens or organising a short training course. The possibilities are endless.

Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate

Employees are motivated when they feel good. Build in ways to celebrate major wins, milestones and project completions. Celebrate by acknowledging those responsible for wins, in a team email or in a team meeting. Celebrate close to the event, so you don’t lose impact.

Offer flexibility

Flexibility is a key motivator, especially with millennial employees. This can be different work hours or different work days. It can also be work-from-home opportunities or flexi time. Ask employees what their ideal scenario is and then test feasibility.

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