Motivating employees is one of the toughest aspects of your job as a manager. Though you know motivation is the gateway to increasing productivity, a growing to-do list and general lack of time keep you from acting. You can't guarantee that employees will be motivated, so why waste your precious time on something that might not work?
Your efforts to motivate employees won't be wasted if they start with a solid foundation. Employee motivation is built on authenticity: authentic feedback, authentic conversations, and authentic relationships.
Authenticity is the foundation to forming personal connections in the workplace. Individuals need certainty on their performance as well as an appreciation for their achievements. If your authentic self is not a part of your daily interactions with your team members, they will struggle to gain that certainty.
Every individual is motivated by and interested in different things. Your employees are also most likely at different points in their career journeys, so they need different things from their work. To motivate your employees, you must first gain deep understandings of where they want to go in their careers (and in a larger way, their lives). Start by asking, “What is most exciting about your career?” This will help unlock the employee's desires and aspirations to help you put them in the best place to succeed.
When you understand employees' ambitions, you can pair them with tasks that need to be accomplished while tapping into employee motivation. For example, if one of your employees wants to eventually serve on the board of a community foundation, ask him or her to lead a project or a set of meetings.
While assigning tasks based on ambition is a great first step, motivation can quickly fizzle out without followup. You should give feedback on how employees are growing toward their ambitions and contributing to the organization. By giving feedback in the moment, you can capitalize on their success and continue motivating them to do more. Drive home the importance of giving and receiving feedback to all employees in the organization.
Large, career-length goals are great, but every long-term aspiration has smaller milestones along the way. Managers should know what those milestones are. Ask your team, "At the end of the year, what key points can we look back on and know success has been achieved?" When team members hit those points, the best managers celebrate their success! Be sure to identify how the employee prefers to be recognized; not everyone wants to celebrate success in the same way.
It’s important to know employees’ motivations are not static. Ambitions evolve along with lives and experiences . Keep the motivation conversation top of mind by scheduling regular one on ones to touch base on their ambitions, productivity and wins.
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