The importance of staff motivation

Keeping your team motivated is one of the most important things to business – and it’s not as easy as having a big cheque book. Alex Meah, Head of HR at Opus Talent Solutions, shares her advice on why and how you should keep your team happy......

If you were to ask many managers how they keep their team motivated and they’ll probably tell you about their great bonus structure. Ask them how they check in on their employees and they’ll probably tell you about their annual reviews. I believe making sure your team is motivated is about much more than ticking the annual review box or offering financial rewards – it’s about human connection, asking the right questions and really knowing the individuals that make up your team. If you don’t know them – how can you know what motivates them?

Why should you take the time and energy to do this? Put simply, if you don’t care about having a truly motivated team then you have a mediocre management style, you’re functioning at a mediocre level and you’ll get mediocre results. In sales terms, you wouldn’t be happy with a mediocre relationship with your client because the likelihood is that will result in mediocre revenue. Why should your team be any different? When you understand why your employees come to work every day (and the reasons will differ from person to person) then you begin to understand them and what a good or bad day looks like for them.

Money isn't peoples only motivator...

How can you get to this level of understanding? My first tip would be – and this is a common issue when working with sales teams – don’t assume money is the only thing that motivates people. If you think people only come to work to be paid every month and that’s the relationship you have with your team, you are absolutely limiting all the other wonderful ways you could be engaging with them.

Making sure people are paid what they are worth to the organisation is obviously important. To that end, I acknowledge most people work because they have bills to pay; but if were to take myself as an example, winning the lottery tomorrow would not change me wanting to work in some way. I love the social aspects of my job, I love the fact I have a community here that is mine and nothing to do with my partner or my family, something that is mine and mine alone, which I perceive to be a healthy thing. I love challenging myself and learning new things and to feel like I’m progressing and growing as a person. If I had a manager who didn’t tap into all these things that I feel really passionately about – and they didn’t use them to better my experience as an employee – then eventually they are going to lose me. If they assumed I was just getting out of bed every day for the money, I’d find it insulting - and I don’t think I can be the only one who feels like this.

Of course, some people are motivated financially. But others may be motivated by praise, or a whole host of other factors. I believe anything that forces people into categories ‘sales people like bonuses’ or ‘creative people like freedom’ is a problem. If you as a manager put someone in a box, then you assume that person will only be happy if you do one thing – and you could be missing out on five other things they value far more.

Continual conversation is key

How you find out this information is crucial. This is where leaving it to the annual review falls down. It’s about having a continual conversation with your team. If you can see someone is visibly buzzing in the office and you can see in their face they’re feeling good – this is the time to ask them, ‘you look like you’re having a great week, what’s been so standout for you?’. You may be surprised by their answer. It may be that they’ve left the office on time three nights in a row and been able to spend more time with their kids. So next time you need to call on that person to go above and beyond, you may think about giving them an extra day off as an incentive. It may be that person finally had the time to generate a new idea and they’re proud if it - so it may be about publicly recognising that. The moment you recognize someone’s high or low, you need to ask them in that moment why– whether that’s a positive or a negative moment. It’s too late to leave it to the annual review. If you solely leave conversations like these to a formal, yearly meeting, you’re always going to remain at mediocre.

I think most of us can tell when a team is fully bought in. It’s the reverse of having one bad apple – it’s when the whole team are on top form, they’re happy, they’re productive, they help each other, and they celebrate together. It’s all of the positive behaviours that make a working environment great to be in. It’s infectious and others feed off it. Likewise, its usually obvious when a team isn’t feeling like this. It’s quiet, shoulders are hunched, people exist in their own thoughts rather than collaborating, productivity is down. We spend so much of our lives working, why wouldn’t anyone want to work in the most positive environment possible.

I’d love to hear your comments and feedback – what are your thoughts on keeping staff motivated? Isn't it time we changed the way we are managing our talent? See our recent blog about why change is needed!

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