As a manager, you need your employees to be efficient and motivated–how else can you assure your business will run smoothly and successfully?
Employee motivation tactics vary wildly from boss to boss. Too often, managers use “negative reinforcement” techniques. It’s understandable–you want to discourage behaviors that hurt workplace productivity. Dressing someone down publicly will show everybody you mean business, right? Wrong.
Despite the perceived “benefits” of negative reinforcement, there’s a problem with this style of motivation. It’s illustrated very poignantly in the cult-comedy classic Office Space. Peter, the protagonist, is speaking about his company’s management style, saying, “That’ll only make someone work just hard enough to not get fired.”
If you develop an effective employee motivation strategy, employees won’t try to avoid you or “stay under your radar”. To use a sports analogy, you want them to see you more like the coach or the team captain than the owner.
Correcting Employee Behavior with Recognition
The headline for this section might seem like a typo–after all, how can you tell someone they’ve made a mistake while giving positive reinforcement? It’s all in how you structure your words. As a manager, you shouldn’t put up with unproductive or disruptive employee behavior. You don’t want to be a doormat, after all.
One technique to deliver necessary criticisms is to “sandwich” the tough-to-hear information between acknowledgments of a person’s strong points.
For example, say an employee–Kevin–has been late three times this week. “Kevin, it’s great how productive you’ve been on the Jackson account. I noticed you were late a few days this week, and it would be awesome if you’d keep that great attitude and work ethic, just getting here a little earlier. You’re an important part of the team and we need you here.”
See what we mean by sandwiching? Praise, suggestion for improvement, praise.
Employee Recognition: The Right Way
Here are some steps to follow to make sure your employees receive positive, useful praise. It’s important to remember throughout that you shouldn’t encourage underachievement–employees who do the bare minimum should receive less praise than those who do extra work or land new accounts. Focus on encouraging the kinds of employee behaviors that will make your workplace thrive. It’s a method endorsed by Forbes Magazine in their profile of successful employee motivation strategies.
1. Don’t Wait to Praise Employees
Whenever possible, you should try to praise your employee at the moment they’ve done something well. Waiting hours or even days to recognize hard work can make your employees feel like they’re just an “afterthought” to you.
2. Be Specific
Don’t give vague praise–“you’re so great”, etc. Illustrate how an employee’s efforts are specifically helping one of your business’s activities or tasks. You can even present monthly or annual employee recognition awards.
3. Don’t Overdo It
If you praise every little thing that goes right throughout the day, your praise loses a lot of value. Reserve any dramatic, heartfelt speeches for people who have truly gone above and beyond their daily workplace duties.
Employee Motivation and Retention
Employee motivation isn’t just a “nice” thing to do, it can be the difference between an employee feeling valued and happy, versus disgruntled and resentful. You’re probably aware that most people leave jobs not because of job requirements, or even salary, but because of poor management.
If your business has an employee retention issue, you should start doing some soul searching as owner or manager. For this, we recommend Huffington Post’s list of management behaviors that drive away employees. If you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions, it’s probably time to work on some new strategies.
A kind word here and there can literally make the difference between an employee feeling valued and an employee feeling neglected or disrespected.
We’d like to leave you with a final thought on employee motivation:
Think back to high school Physics class–remember Newton’s law about how an object at rest remains at rest, and an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force? If you’re an effective manager, that outside force is you.