If you have an office full of lazy, uninspired employees, you’re not alone. Marketing legend Dan Kennedy sees the employer-employee relationship as inherently adversarial. You are ready to stay late to make your business a success while they’re counting the minutes on the clock until they can go home.
While there is some truth to this, you can have a business full of inspired, motivated contributors who take pride in increasing your company’s bottom line. Here are some ways to motivate employees.
1. Show appreciation for their efforts
While I was at a friend’s office to meet for lunch, I overheard a complaint about the CEO. It was “He always takes credit for my ideas. I tell him something and he runs with it and then acts like it was all him.”
The complaint sounded a bit odd to me because it wasn’t about a co-worker or even a supervisor. It was the CEO “taking credit” for ideas. As entrepreneurs, we can scoff at this woman’s ignorance because she has no idea the CEO has to take credit for her failures as well. But that would miss the point.
Employees need regular positive reinforcement and appreciation. Since you are an authority figure, the people under you will function best when they have a steady stream of approval for good work. They will continue to provide excellent performance in return for regular boosts to their self-esteem. Never underestimate how just noticing and quickly acknowledging a contribution can help productivity.
2. Make them feel important
Think back to a time where you voluntarily took on a project you either didn’t want to do or weren’t sure you could handle. What made you decide to take responsibility, instead of deferring or delegating to someone else? Chances are it was because you felt if this endeavor was going to be done right, it would have to be done by you. There are few things more inspiring than knowing you are the right man or right woman for the job and that without you, things could crumble.
No matter what your employee’s role is, you can make his or her task feel extremely important. Suppose you have a custodian in your building who you haven’t talked to in a while. After you have a large business deal closed, you can say to him, “Hey Paul, I just wanted to say you have done a phenomenal job keeping the building clean. We had an enormous business deal close today, and the client said he loved how sparkly our building was. This was a very tight negotiation so your part definitely made a difference.”
Praise like this gives an employee purpose in his or her profession. It becomes more than trading time for money, or making widgets for a fee. When someone knows that his or her contribution has made a difference, there is a feeling of great pride and connectedness.
3. Public praise, private criticism
As we’ve talked about, people of all kinds love approval from authority figures, as well as from their peers. Give them the best of both worlds and they will be your loyal soldiers. Of course, you will have to discipline and be critical at times when an employee makes a mistake or simply misbehaves. However, the way you do this can make a crucial difference in both how that employee and other employees act.
When an employee does a good job, make it public. You don’t have to announce this to the whole office to make an impact. All you have to do is compliment him or her while others are in earshot. This will make him want to work harder and motivate others to work hard as well, so they can earn the same praise.
When an employee is doing something bad, criticize him privately. Allow absolutely no one to hear about it. The employee will not want to share his disciplining with co-workers and will appreciate not being humiliated.
4. Over-deliver on perks
Employees love to complain about work. It’s a common bonding experience for people at the happy-hour table and when they get home to their spouses.
A way to reverse this trend is to give employees something to brag about to their friends instead. Doing this with “perks” is a surprisingly cost-effective way to improve motivation at the office. Even switching from cheap Folgers to premium coffee makes a huge difference. Having “luxury” services like bringing a massage therapist in regularly works wonders, as well.
When your accountant goes home to his wife and says “Ugh… glad to be out of that place,” he knows she’ll say “Oh, you mean that spot that lets you come in at 10 a.m., sip espresso all day and gives you massages? You want my job instead?” Once you take away an employee’s social right to complain, he takes the next best approach: bragging about how great his workplace is.
In the end, the motivation of your staff will come down to how you act as a manager and how much you can align your vision with that of your employees. As long as you can keep your goals shared, your employees will be with you every step of the way.
Get more tips on motivating employees.