As a manager, motivating employees is one of the most important things you do for your company. After all, engagement is linked to firm profitability, customer satisfaction and employee retention. Yet garnering loyalty and commitment from employees can be a challenge.
Recently, Harvard Business Review published a series on engaging employees, asking different experts to weigh in on specific angles. These articles provide a good refresher on how to keep your team focused and motivated.
Where to start? First, you need to know what you’re working with. Develop a baseline understanding of how engaged your team members are. Many companies do that with an annual engagement survey asking employees to report their own satisfaction levels. But, the results don’t give you objective data on how engaged people actually are. Instead, you can use people analytics to understand what drives your employees, perhaps even better than employees understand themselves.
Then, consider whom you’re trying to engage. Of course,one size does not fit all when you’re coming up with an engagement strategy and what you do should depend on the specific group you’re working with, whether they’re older workers or younger ones, your star performers or your b-players. And some people can be tougher to motivate than others. Take government workers or middle managers, for example. Or people who have a lot of other opportunities available to them, like data scientists. Or consider the very real challenge of trying to motivate someone you don’t like. Tailor your approach to meet each team member’s needs.
Next, keep in mind what works and what doesn’t.
Here are some of the things that have been shown to motivate people:
+ The freedom to choose when, where, and how they work.
+ The ability to perform at the highest levels, even beyond their own expectations.
+ Feeling connected to others.
+ A well-designed workspace.
Aspirational, but achievable, goals. Try this helpful trick: a range of goals (“land four to six new clients”) may be more motivating than a single one (“land five new clients”).
And here are a few that have the opposite effect, demotivating people:
+ Having to pretend they’re someone they’re not.
+ Working for a micromanaging boss.
Unfortunately, managers who are truly good at motivating are few and far between. This is partly because it isn’t something you can learn overnight. Rather, research shows that the most engaging leaders have had early stretch experiences that shaped them and have deeply-held beliefs about what it means to be a leader.
You can’t go back and change your past but you can focus on doing some very basic things that make a big difference, such as listening,showing respect, and remembering that happiness matters, even at work.
(Amy Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review.)
© 2014 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate