IN our last article, we spoke about the importance of crafting and sharing a well-thought out Mission Statement for companies. How it helps employees get aligned to the business direction and contribute wherever they can towards achieving goals set. And also how important it is to develop one for ourselves to help guide us in our life.
I'd like to bring those two items together and discuss about motivating staff because in today's challenging business environment, our people or talent is a critical part of the bloodline in an organisation. Motivating your staff is a cycle where once you find your people, you need to hold and manage them. Motivation forms part of retention strategies and programmes in organisations. In understanding the need to motivate staff to ensure that they remain engaged and loyal with your company, let's look at what are some of the factors which motivate people to work.
I was having a conversation over coffee a month ago with two friends who are entrepreneurs and both have done very well for themselves. We spoke at length about the various challenges they encountered in their quest to achieve their dreams of building their own business empire and loving what they do.
One of the common challenges that they brought up was the issue of motivating the people that they hire and how challenging it was for them. As with any new business entity, you do not have a strong employer brand or a consumer brand to attract and retain your staff. One of the main focuses of my two friends was to manage cost as during their early set-up, the investment cost was rather high and they were on a tight budget on other resources that they had to look into; human resources/staff hiring, marketing and promotion budget, operational cost of running the business.
One of them who runs a food and beverage outlet had an “eureka” moment after struggling to find a solution to motivate her staff and came up with this plan she would allow her staff who was the best employee of the week to bring someone of their choice to the outlet for a free meal. With this concept, what followed was weeks of these performing staff bringing their friends, parents or siblings, room-mate/housemate, college mate to the outlet for a free meal. Soon, word of mouth got out about the outlet from these visitors who enjoyed a free meal at the place. The outlet registered crowds and business was improving. The cash register was ringing but most of all, the staff were motivated and happy.
Heart and mind
When I asked my friend the secret of why the staff was motivated and happy, she mentioned that each of them was proud to bring their loved ones to the outlet and be able to serve them a great meal that they have a hand in making; not necessarily cooking it but perhaps serving it. When they got encouragement and thanks from their loved ones for the complimentary meal, it inspired and motivated them to do better. In this case, my friend did not motivate her staff but the truth is, the staff motivated themselves internally and employees respond to their personal needs, and not just to the rewards offered by the manager. The motivation programme touched not just the heart and mind of the staff but that of others along the way.
I had the opportunity to meet many CEOS and leaders of organisations and most of them share that they retain and motivate their staff by giving them the right challenges, developments, and secure packages. One of the most common refrains from these leaders are their concern about having to hire new staff, with all the risks that entails, then having to invest time and money to train them to a level adequate to perform the required task. They agree that it is much better to motivate and retain the staff who can perform the job in the first place including providing the training to enable employees to scale new heights as business grows.
Carrot or stick
In many organisations today, the manager's challenge is to find out what each staff's values and goals are and map out the motivation process to meet those goals. To those of you who are parents, getting your staff/teams to work and achieve the agreed KPIs (key performance indicators) through motivation is similar to getting your children to behave in a particular manner through motivation. It is generally “a carrot or stick” motivation plan. Which plan works better, you may ask. From a HR perspective, it generally depends on the staff; which generation they belong to, their values and goals, their environment and their personal needs as well. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” solution here.
If you choose to use the “carrot” way of motivating your staff, try empowerment and encouraging a sense of responsibility in their scope of work or even challenging them in the way they work. Providing feedback and inputs along the way helps to lead them to the right direction faster and more focused. Encouraging your staff to develop goals and measurements to track their performance will help create ownership of work and even pride of work. Many managers forget to praise their staff for work done well and this simple recognition needs to be given at the right time, right occasion to have an impact on the staff. Make appreciation part of the plan as this allows the staff the opportunity to celebrate their successes. Many people when asked often respond that they often celebrate occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, festive occasions and special occasions like Father's Day or Mother's Day. Few actually responded that they celebrate proud moments of success at work such as completion of a project, meeting KPIs and getting a report out in time. In the example of my friend who owned a food and beverage outlet, she motivated her staff by allowing them to celebrate their success with their loved ones, people that matter in their life through a complimentary meal and not just with colleagues.
In most organisations today, there is a multi-generational pool of workforce and each generation shares similar experiences growing up and views the world through their own generational experiences, influences and social values. Accordingly, each group has a different approach around work-life balance, employer loyalty, authority, and other important issues related to the organisation, all of which have a significant impact in the workplace.
To ensure that motivation has a positive impact towards your staff, a proper plan/programme crafted with care, objective and end-result in mind will definitely need to include the negative aspects to avoid. Company politics comes to mind when employees talk about environment that create negative performance, ill feelings, resentment and restlessness. At times dejection and a sense of failure and unhappiness ferments from the existence of company politics and that is something that leadership should acknowledge and resolve quickly and swiftly.
One common feedback by candidates and workforce which is as deadly as company politics are rewards or promotions which is not based on meritocracy. When a company or a leader rewards and promotes someone not based on meritocracy or tolerates poor performance, this evokes a sense of an unfair level playing field among the staff particularly among the high achievers and top talents.
Strongly motivated professionals, top talent and high achievers follow their inclination towards a mission that has a strong personal meaning for them. Motivation reaches its peak when their personal goals and mission align with the specific demands of their work and the objectives of the organisation. They like what they do and are committed because they see their work yielding concrete results.
There are many motivational action steps and programs which a parent, a manager, a leader can put in place or carry out to bring out the desired results in their children, teams and staff. Although one may work for some while others require a different set of plans, all motivation plans must be able to touch the hearts and minds of the people that you work with.
● The writer is managing director of Kelly Services Singapore and Malaysia. Managing staff forms part of Melissa's daily activities at work and she finds it very fulfilling when staff are engaged and it's reflected in their performance and productivity levels. Only when you touch the hearts and minds does it enrich the soul and that is the true test of motivation.