Has this ever happened to you? You spend a lot of time and energy hiring great people for your company, only to find out that a few months, or even years later, they seem to have lost their spark. No matter what you try to motivate them, that great team is now just … blah.
Or maybe you’re in a slightly different situation — maybe you inherited a team that was never really properly motivated, and now you’re stuck trying to get them excited and engaged.
Whatever the situation, one thing is for sure: a halfhearted staff is going to produce halfhearted work at the very best. The good news is, there are lots of things you can do to motivate even the most demoralised team … and many of them are completely free.
1. Make sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing and why.
This sounds incredibly obvious — after all, how could your staff be working if they’re not sure what they’re supposed to be doing?
But this type of confusion is much, much more common than you’d think. One survey of tens of thousands of employees found that only 37% had a clear understanding of what their organisation was trying to achieve and why. Take a moment to imagine that you’re that employee, who’s not really sure of what the business is trying to accomplish. Even if you had an OK understanding of your daily duties, how much more could you do for the company if you really understood the bigger picture?
And looking at things on a slightly smaller scale, simply clarifying expectations can be a huge factor in employee motivation. Again, it seems like such a simple thing … but clear expectations were one of the top five things that employees listed as wanting from their company, even above better benefits or more holiday time. So it’s well worth taking the time to make sure everybody knows the bigger picture and their part in it.
2. Really get to know them.
Company culture varies from organisation to organisation, but making sure that you actually get to know your employees on a personal level can make a huge difference in how motivated they are. In fact, knowing that someone at work cares about them as a person is another of the top five things that employees say they want from an organisation.
Plus, it’s common sense. Anyone is going to be much more engaged when they’re working with people they have a personal relationship with than with a bunch of people they consider to be acquaintances at best.
If you tend to be a little distant or feel like you need to maintain a degree of professionalism at work, don’t feel like you have to suddenly change your entire personality. Even something as simple as talking about weekend plans can make a big difference. If you really want to step it up, try having a Friday pool tournament like we do at Clear Books! It’s a great way for everybody to get to know each other, relax, and come back on Monday motivated.
3. Give them the chance to shine at what they’re already great at.
There are few things as demotivating as frustrated talent. But a lot of people find that they get stuck in positions where they’re unable to use their true talents, whether that’s because they’re stuck in a position that’s not right for them or there are systems or policies in place that (often unintentionally) make it impossible for them to really shine.
So make sure that you’re making it possible for your people to really shine. This includes ensuring that they can execute on goals — one survey found that just 15% of employees feel like their organisation enables them to fully implement on key goals — and review people regularly to make sure they’re still a good fit for the position they’re holding.
This is another great reason to get to know your employees, by the way. The more you know them, the better you’ll be able to place them — and you may find that one has a hidden talent they could be happily putting to much better use than their current job.
4. … and give them the opportunity to grow.
This goes hand in hand with the above point. If you’re doing your job properly, the people on your staff should be growing and developing as they work for you. This means that you need to be conscious that the person who was great in one position when they started may now be overqualified for it. Or they may have realised that actually, they’re much better in a lateral position.
This may sound like a problem. After all, shuffling staff can be a pain. But actually, it’s a great opportunity to grow your talent from within instead of having to spend time and money hiring staff that don’t know your company from the inside out, like your current staff does.
So in addition to keeping an eye on how your staff is changing, make sure you’re actively encouraging them to develop themselves. This can be something as simple as encouraging them to take courses outside of work, or you can set up in-house systems to identify and develop talent.
5. Make it a point to recognise good work.
It’s incredibly easy to fall into a habit of mostly talking to your staff when something is wrong. And it makes sense, in a way: problems often need to be solved urgently, or at least before other work can progress.
But this often means that the only real interaction you have with your staff is negative. If people feel like you’re constantly riding them and that all the good work they’re doing is going unrecognised, they’re going to become unmotivated fast. Which of course starts a vicious cycle where they feel criticised, get demotivated, do worse work, which invites more negative feedback, and so on.
6. Ask them what they want.
Every business is different, and every staff needs different specifics to thrive. So ask your staff what they want, and really listen. Try to respond quickly to what they’re telling you they need, even if you can’t provide it right away. Simply showing them that you’re listening and doing what you can to work with them will make a huge difference in their engagement.
All fairly simple to implement — and all of which can make a huge difference in your business!