Don’t think you need to make a significant effort to keep your employees motivated? Think again.
Employee engagement initiatives are so much more than just rewards, bonuses and fun perks. They are an important investment that can have a major and measurable impact on your organization’s bottom line. Forbes estimates that a single disengaged employee can cost a company about $16,000 a year due to absenteeism, low productivity and a drain on profitability.
Those unmotivated employees are “… just there for the paycheck, which means they’re doing enough to avoid being fired but aren’t likely to go above and beyond their primary responsibilities,” according to the Forbes article.
A recent article in Harvard Business Review identifies four reasons why employees might not feel motivated:
- Values mismatch (they don’t think the work is meaningful)
- Lack of self-efficacy (they are not confident in their abilities)
- Disruptive emotions (they are affected by things like anxiety or anger)
- Attribution errors (they are frustrated because they don’t understand what’s going wrong)
Simply replacing disengaged workers is not always a viable solution because it is costly and time-consuming. Glassdoor reports that the average American company spends about $4,000 and 24 days to hire a single new employee.
What can be done about this challenge? Dr. Cathy Bush of Florida Tech explored the issue and described some solutions in her recent webinar, “Keeping Employees Motivated.”
Bush is a faculty member at Florida Tech, teaching courses in the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) program. She is co-founder of The Leadership Doctors and the principal consultant at Bush Consulting LLC. She and another author recently wrote, “The Demotivated Employee: Helping Leaders Solve the Motivation Crisis That Is Plaguing America.”
Here are five tips based on Bush’s webinar presentation:
Tip 1: Understand Your Role in Motivation
Many leaders think that their employees come to a project without motivation, and that their job is to provide the energy and support to inspire them. Bush says her experience and a lot of research indicates this isn’t true — employees have a “full basket” of motivation when they arrive to work.
Workers’ motivations might include:
- Wanting to have a sense of accomplishment
- Giving back and serving others
- Providing for themselves and their families
So, knowing that motivation baskets are full, leaders need to shift their thinking. Their job isn’t to provide motivation, but to prevent the existing motivation from slipping away.
“What can leaders do to stop poking holes in motivation baskets?” Bush asked. In other words, leaders should not focus on motivating employees, but minimizing opportunities for demotivating them. Adopting this mindset will go a long way toward helping leaders avoid demotivating their employees, she said.
Tip 2: Adapt to the Situation
A rigid style of leadership could be a liability, Bush said. Situations and employees are all different, so a one-size-fits-all approach to management and strategy isn’t always a good solution.
“You can’t just be one type of leader, because you’re going to miss their needs,” Bush explained.
To avoid demotivation, take time to analyze the lay of the land and adjust your approach appropriately.
“Predictability is a human need — we all like it,” Bush said. But it’s not helpful “when the thing you predict your boss is going to do is not the thing you need.”
Tip 3: Acknowledge Stress
The business environment is always in flux, and change is often necessary for organizations to keep up. But change is also very stressful and confusing — and that could be a source of demotivation.
Bush said that it’s more important than ever to provide support and communicate clearly during times of change so that employees don’t become demotivated.
“Realize the toll it takes on others,” Bush said. “It doesn’t mean don’t change. It means help people who are struggling to go through those changes.”
In general, leaders should be sensitive to employee stress — even if it’s not caused by change.
“We talk about stress on employees like that’s a fact of life,” she said. “Give them the space to talk about it. You don’t have to fix it for them.”
Tip 4: Create a Productive Organizational Structure
Some organizations require a rigid organizational structure, especially when safety is an issue. But, at other organizations, a strict hierarchy might stifle creativity and productivity, leading to demotivation.
The goal isn’t to get read of structure entirely, Bush said. Instead, it’s to ensure that the structure you adopt is one that allows people to do their best work.
Tip 5: Welcome Ideas
The quickest way to demotivate your employees is to ignore or shut down their input — and no one wants that! Bush says leaders should always be open to ideas and feedback. When you take the time to listen, “employees will immediately respond with a positive sense of motivation,” she said.
Don’t wait for employees to come to you. Ask them to communicate freely and tell them you value their contributions.