Be a Marvelous Motivator: How to Motivate Your Employees

Every employer wants to get the best work possible from his or her employees. This means making workers feel their jobs are useful, time is well-spent, and they are making a difference. Yet, it’s tricky to motivate adult employees because slight missteps can leave them feeling patronized. Here are some positive ways to motivate and retain your employees.

Treat Others as You Want to be Treated 

This golden rule is the most important motivator. Bryan Shinn (CEO of US Silica) says, “I try to treat folks as I want to be treated and I think that’s one of the most motivating things to an organization. No matter where you are in the leadership hierarchy, if you’re engaged and empathetic and just real with people I think it goes a long way.” 

Address the Problem Now 

Don’t wait to talk to underperforming employees; ignoring is condoning. Most employee productivity issues are not dealt with directly. Employee work standards will naturally decay if they are not reminded that you care about certain policies, and ignoring the issue helps them feel they can “get away with it.”

Listen and Respect Them 

“Might makes right” is not true. Start by listening and showing your employees respect. If you go in accusing, the employee will get defensive and insulted. The employee might have a legitimate concern or new idea. Have a conversation instead of a lecture. Don Bailey (CEO of Questcor) says, “Listen to them, have sincere respect for what they do, and understand that they have families as well. Communicate with them as often as possible.”

Even if employees don’t have legitimate concerns, listening sends a clear message that you are paying attention to their needs and their productivity. If an employee is a bad fit for the job or lacks needed skills, that’s your problem, not the employee’s. Provide sufficient training to ensure your employees are familiar with your expectations.

Communicate Expectations Clearly 

Beating around the bush leaves employees confused. Speak articulately, ask questions, and ask them to ask questions. Make sure that the management team is on the same page. Inconsistent communication from different supervisors leaves employees in disagreement about expectations.

Provide Encouraging Coaching and a Team Plan 

Present the problem as a team problem, and try not to put all the responsibility on the employee. “Let’s work on this together,” tells employees you will help them improve. Provide that help with encouraging coaching and a clear plan for improving. 

Appeal to Their Motives

Productivity is best when employees are self-motivated instead of motivated by fear, so provide employees internal motivations. Avoid threatening and don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Listening to their natural motives may help you appeal to those motives, so pay close attention to what excites your employees as you talk with them. Turn their words into keywords you mention as motive reminders later.

Make Them Feel Importance

Employees want to know why their tasks are important. They procrastinate because they think a delay won’t cause any problems for anybody else. Explain the chain of events linking their task to everyone else’s responsibilities.

Reward Changes 

“You’re doing a lot better!” is encouraging. Besides encouragement, reward them however you can. This helps provide self-motivation instead of fear-motivation.

Bryan Shinn (CEO of US Silica) says, “I also put a lot of effort into recognizing the small things. You don’t have to wait until someone has a major accomplishment. . . . Don’t be afraid to challenge the rules or do something unconventional around reward and recognition. Just calling somebody up to say thank you or finding a way to find out what they like to do in their spare time and reward them with it.”

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