ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Assessing Employee Involvement and Motivation

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 at all.

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.

Why bother, you ask?

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

Customer 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.

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?
  • 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 each morning?
  • 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)?

Of course you need to read the answers carefully and create a plan of action for improvement where necessary.

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