Managers are constantly searching for better ways to motivate employees. They develop incentive plans, create awards, spark friendly office competitions, and re-design work environments an effort to drive productivity.
But what if motivating employees came down to something as simple as just... talking?
It’s true – conversations can be just as motivating as a trophy or new office chairs. Sometimes, getting the most out of an employee comes down to simply showing them that you care.
The six types of conversations below will help make employees feel heard and valued, boosting employee engagement and motivating them to work harder and more efficiently.
Few things show an employee you care more than taking time out of your busy schedule and spending it with them. Create a standing one-on-one meeting with each of your direct reports (we recommend a weekly cadence) to discuss whatever is on the employee’s mind and share any updates you have for them. Even just 20-30 minutes per week lowers the “boss barrier” and allows for deeper connections.
Hard work often goes unnoticed, and it’s incredibly disengaging when an employee’s achievement is met with silence. Let employees know that you appreciate their hard work and congratulate them for wins, even the small ones. Recognition is rewarding to employees and doesn’t cost the organization a dime – that's a win-win.
As much as employees may enjoy their current job, they likely have higher career aspirations, whether that’s earning a promotion, getting a raise, or developing new skills. Talk to employees about their career motivations and what they’re ultimately aiming for, then brainstorm and suggest ways they can progress toward that goal (e.g., taking online classes, attending conferences, adding new work responsibilities). You’ll get a sense of what motivates the employee, who will feel grateful you’re taking a genuine interest in their future.
Make it clear that your relationships with employees aren’t dictatorships. That you have a genuine interest in what they think and want to hear their opinions. Ask for their opinions and ideas about their role, the workplace, and even your managing style. Not only will this empower employees to offer new ideas, but it gives them a voice and lets them know that they matter.
If the only topics of discussion are about business, employees are going to feel like faceless cogs in the machine. Get to know who your employees are outside of work. Learn about their families, passions, hobbies, weekend activities, etc. The employee will get a sense that you care about their well-being as much as their productivity. You will also get a deeper understanding of their strengths, skillsets, and what truly drives them.
Not all communication has to be a robust conversation. Other touch points could include simply swinging by an employee’s desk for a quick chat, high-fiving them in the hallway, or commenting on how much you loved the sandwich shop they chose for lunch. These quick, simple interactions make you more approachable while maintaining your position of respect.
Of course, workplace conversations aren’t limited to these topics. You can talk to your employees about almost anything, and chances are that simply acknowledging them will improve your relationship and create trust between you.
We understand it’s not always easy to simply strike up a productive conversation with an employee, especially if one or both of you are shy or especially introverted. Download our ebook, Performance Manifesto: 5 Manager Lessons for Engaging Employees, to learn some tips and tricks to starting interesting, engaging discussions with employees.