Duncan Consulting, Inc. - Growth through Knowledge.
Duncan Consulting, Inc. - Growth through Knowledge.

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Getting Employees to Focus-Part II: Motivation

By: Johnny Duncan

Replacing employees is costly. As a business owner, you strive to retain good employees by keeping them motivated and engaged in their work. The problem is that not all employees are motivated by the same things. For some it is money, for others it is titles, public recognition, parking spaces, or some other kudos that needs to be customized to the employee’s specific taste. Here are three steps you can use immediately to get your employees to focus on their work through motivation.

First, communicate your raison d'etre. You want your employees to focus on their work, the role their work plays in the overall strategy of the business, and the outcome of successfully completing their work. It is not enough to attempt to drive home commitment like a football coach giving a locker room speech. As an employer, you should also communicate company goals and link them to individual goals to better engage employees and, ultimately, drive company success.

The communication process begins during the interview and continues through daily updates and reminders. Use the tools already at your disposal such as your mission and vision statement, employee handbook, and policies and procedures.

Secondly, make every effort to create a burden-free environment. Don’t launch a new initiative every week like it is the “flavor-of-the-month.” To the employee, new initiatives are viewed as passing fads because no one ever takes away old work. Unfortunately, some organizations just keep piling on new stuff, hoping to hit pay dirt. The appetite for new work increases if everyone works to spot burden-busters -- anything they are doing that does not add value or is redundant. Watch what happens when people realize that they can stop activities that no longer make sense. As a leader, you have opportunities everyday to send this point home through your own work habits. Cutting out the fluff and low priority activities to focus on company goals speaks volumes to your team.

Finally, determine motivational factors for each employee and implement those factors. Sounds very simple, right? It would be nice if it were easy, but the fact is that uncovering what motivates each employee is an ongoing process requiring special attention to each employee. You must first do a pulse check and see if employees are engaged. Determine what is working and what is not as you go along because motivational factors will shift over time as your employee’s life changes.

So many issues are influencing your employees’ motivational level. The employee's emotional commitment to the job and company is a key lever for engagement. Literally, the degree and quality of performance depend on heart over mind. Emotional commitment to the job, organization, team and manager has been found to determine stronger performance than developmental, financial or professional rewards. For some organizations, motivating these folks is simply a matter of including them in company goal-setting meetings or empowering them to make key decisions on their own.

Then, there is the work/life balance issue. This issue is influenced by many factors such as the age of the employee (Generation X, baby boomer, etc.), cultural background, and gender. Finding the correct motivation requires that you develop creative schedules around their home life offering flexibility to, for example, allow them to take care of family issues while doing their job.

A closer study of your team members will help you determine what motivates them. Sometimes, the very fact that you are showing interest in your team members is motivating in itself. Don’t be surprised if you see an increase in productivity and a sense of ownership by your employees after conducting your study. You care, and they need to know that.

Johnny Duncan is President of Duncan Consulting, Inc., a human resources consulting service. Contact him with people challenges and small business questions at Johnny@DuncanConsult.com or by calling 407-739-0718