Sometimes, especially in large bureaucratic
organizations, people stagnate. They don’t feel as though the work they are
doing is important and they don’t feel appreciated. This leads to just getting
through the day, doing their work in a desultory manner.
In other cases, there is anger and
resentment, which is kept under wraps, because the employees feeling that way
don’t want to risk losing their jobs by telling management what bothers them. Thus,
they become passive-aggressive, doing the work in a desultory manner.
Recently, I was consulting to a division of
a company that was trying to integrate a new management team. The new managers
had very different styles of operating than their predecessors and
inadvertently made staff feel as though everything they had done in the past
was wrong. Instead of embracing the new processes, the staff became
passive-aggressive (some became outright aggressive) ignoring the new systems
and continuing to do their work (you guessed it) in a desultory manner or not
Other reasons employees are no longer
motivated might be as simple as boredom, not feeling appreciated, not having
enough to eat (yes!) or even too much to eat (in firms that have hot and cold
gourmet food around all the time).
In some cases it is impossible – almost
impossible – for a manager to reward an outstanding job by giving a bonus, a tangible
present, or time off. Either government regulations or unions or both demand that
everyone be compensated – treated equally (whatever that really means!).
So, let’s assume you can’t throw money at
the problem. Let’s assume that you, as manager, have to find ways to make your
employees motivated and engaged again.
Clearly once an employee (assuming you have
hired correctly – but that’s another article) is re-energized and motivated,
the quality of their work-product will improve as will their attitude of
customer service both internally and externally.
I want to start my suggestions with the
most obvious: Customer Service
Service as a Diagnostic Tool
There is perhaps no clearer indication of
whether an employee is feeling good about themselves and their work than how
they treat others.
Is their stock answer “not my job” or do
they go out of their way to be helpful and supportive to those they serve – and
those who serve them in the workplace? When you receive information from your
internal customers that there is a lack of cooperation but only demands from
your staff, you know your employees are unhappy.
Let’s look at contracts and procurement of professional
services in a government agency as an example.
There are internal customers who rarely need
to procure something externally. Thus, they don’t remember, or have never used,
the complicated processes required for the contracted services they seek. How
the contract administration staff handles them is a litmus test of how this
department feels about their jobs and about the company in which they work.
If they help the internal customer complete
all the required forms in a friendly manner, you get one idea – but if they
merely say “not my job – you are supposed to know where to find the information
and fill out the forms,” you have a real attitude problem on your hands.
Let’s look, too, to one of the more
standard complaints. IT against everyone else. Does your organization have an
IT organization with members who think they are better than everyone else
(“stupid user”), or do they recognize that they are a service organization to
the rest of the departments?
You get the point! A significant way you
can measure employee motivation and the way the employees in the organization
work to support each other’s success, as well as the goals of the organization itself,
is to create surveys and evaluations.
Of course another way you can learn about
how your employees feel is to ask them – you can ask them in one-on-ones, but
most people will be to afraid to be honest.
You stand a better chance of learning what
really is bothering them if you create an employee satisfaction –
dissatisfaction survey or have them do an evaluation of their supervisors,
managers and peers (sometimes called a 360 degree evaluation).
Let’s suppose you ask them about their
relationship to their management. You might suggest they answer all the
questions on a scale of 1 – 5 (1 = poor, 5 = excellent), and here are some
suggested questions to ask: Do you know what is expected of
you at work?
Of course you need to read the answers
carefully and create a plan of action for improvement where necessary.
- Do you have the materials and
equipment you need to do your job effectively?
- Do you feel that you are being
asked to do work that fits your interests and skills?
- Are you challenged with stretch
goals so that you are able to continuously improve?
- Is your supervisor/manager
available to you when you need him/her?
- When decisions are being made
that involve the work you do, or you, are you a part of the conversation and does
your opinion matter?
- Do you enjoy coming to work
- Is your relationship with your co-workers
friendly and helpful?
- Does your supervisor/manager
let you know when you’ve done a good job (attaboys)?
- Is the work you do part of what
makes our company so valuable to the community?
- Is your performance appraised
regularly, and do you know what you are doing well, what you need improvement
in, and your stretch goals?
- Would you feel better about the
work you are expected to do if______________(fill in the blank)?
Let me give you some general ideas that you
can do even if you are not allowed to give financial rewards.
to Improve Employee Motivation, Morale and Involvement
The most important tip I can offer you is
to take the time to get to know each of your employees personally. People want
to be recognized as individuals, not merely as part of a group. How you
accomplish this will vary depending on the size of the organization you
personally manage and whether people are in the same facility – state or
country – as you.
Of course it is easiest if you manage less
than a dozen people and they all sit within walking distance of your office. In
that case, you can stop by in the morning and say “hello” and compliment them
on something they are wearing (be careful it doesn’t cross the line) or ask a
question about where they might have obtained a particular personal item on
their desk or the poster on the wall. Of course you should also ask if there is
anything they need from you. Over time, learn something about their personal
lives – their families, kids, hobbies, birthday, etc.
If you manage people that work out of their
homes, or in other facilities within your state, bring them together for team
meetings at least once a quarter – more if possible. Start those meetings with
social time and end them with social time. Have business issues discussed –
being sure to solicit their opinions – in the middle.
Unfortunately, if your people are all over
the world, it’s going to be much harder. If at all possible, create an annual
retreat bringing them all together. Even if you do this, or if this is not
possible, spend some time on the telephone getting to know them individually.
the value to society of the company and the work
Next in line of importance is for you to
communicate to all your staff how important their work is to furthering the
goals, values and the mission of the organization. Most employees want to feel
as though their contribution is worthwhile, not just “busy-work.”
If your firm is in the business of doing
something that is obviously valuable to society in some form or other, this
will be an easier task for you. The further away the value appears to the
average person, the more difficult this task will be for you.
You might consider including some community
service for your employees – such as participating in a walk-a-thon, a
community-wide fundraising event, or as a group feeding the needy.
People need to feel good about what they
are doing and the company in which they are doing it.
importance of customer service
It is your responsibility as a manager to
assure that everyone understands that they are part of an organization – a
large team – all of whom are responsible for achieving the overall goals of the
business together. Silos need to be broken down as does the attitude that it is
us against them. Encourage and reward positive internal (and external) customer
Where possible bring together people from
different departments who have to interact with each other. I create
mini-retreats of three or four hours during which people working in facilities
near each other learn something personal about each other (hobbies, for
example), what the other’s job really entails (walking in his shoes) and how
what they do or don’t do impacts the other group.
If you are bringing people from far away –
create two or three day retreats, but less frequently.
Each of us wants to be recognized for the
work we do. Yes, we are usually part of a team – but as I’ve written before (and
given speeches about) there is a ME in teams.
We are individuals working together. Attaboys, awards, notices in the
newsletter are all inexpensive ways you can recognize outstanding work. Don’t
ruin this by making sure everyone becomes “employee of the month,” especially
if it is undeserved.
Management by walking around is one of the
ways you can be aware of what is being done and what isn’t being done to your
So, in order to be recognized, we need to
have specific assignments and we need to be held accountable for the completion
of these assignments in an exemplary manner.
Correct those behaviors, performance and
comments that are inconsistent with the goals of the organization and the
values you wish to instill.
stretch goals and professional development
Although there are some people who prefer
doing the same tasks day after day, week after week and year after year – most
people get bored over time. They need to have their work varied.
So create stretch goals with them. What would
they like to learn next? Can they be given higher levels of
autonomy-responsibility? Should they be cross-trained so they can be promoted?
If your company can – work with your
employees to create a plan for their career development which would be consistent
with the succession plan needed by the firm.
Offer opportunities for training – both
internal and external.
Whether a particular staff person needs to
be coached to do better in their present job, or you see them as having
potential for promotion, you might offer them one-on-one coaching, mentoring or
counseling. There is nothing better –
but be careful that you pick someone competent to do the coaching, etc.
the working environment
Ok, I know you aren’t Google or Apple – but
– you can make the environment in which you and your staff work more pleasant.
Here are some ideas, some of which you may or may not be able to implement
depending on your organization, funds, and rules.
8: Listen and learn
- Keep every area clean and
- Make sure the restrooms are
serviced regularly – more often than you think.
- Allow for personal decoration
of cubicles and offices.
- Have areas where people can
join each other to brainstorm, problem-solve or just visit for a few minutes.
- Provide the best in ergonomic
seating as possible.
- Provide the most effective
technology for doing the job.
- Treat to coffee/tea etc. during
the day – have those in a break room.
- And, of course, if you have the
funds provide good meals.
opportunities for employees to give you feedback. We’ve mentioned some ways in
which you can accomplish this earlier in this article.
is akin to good parenting. You are not their friend – but you should not be
their enemy. There should be respect, courtesy, and a mutual desire to
accomplish commonly accepted goals.