Wednesday, 1 August 2012

How to motivate in tough times

How to Motivate Yourself and Others when the Going Gets Tough

Employee morale and engagement have been severely challenged in recent times as the global recession has taken its toll. The fallout we see in the workplace includes threats to future survival, redundancy programmes, reorganisation and restructuring, transformation programmes – essentially a constant daily diet of accelerated change and instability. At an emotional level employees are dealing with fear of losing one’s job, survivor guilt after escaping the last round of redundancies; and sometimes lethargy in facing into the demands of the next new role / manager / team structure. For those employees who work best in stable secure environments (and Maslow would point out that this describes a basic human need) then today’s workplace provides the most potentially destructive work environment in living memory. How then do we stay motivated and motivate others to high levels of engagement and productivity?

Four Critically Important Motivators Mark McGuinness, who has written about creativity and motivation, identifies four key motivators: 
Challenge; Friends & Enemies; Rewards; Heroes. 

Challenge: This is key to a sense of personal satisfaction: humans are hard wired for progress – as soon as we achieve one goal (new car, new job, new golf clubs......) another aspiration kicks in. Do you see the recession as an overwhelming problem, out of your control or as a challenge, maybe an opportunity to learn and grow, try new things? Mark asks us to look at the recession through different lenses to identify which is most motivational. People have described the ‘benefits’ of recessionary times as having been a catalyst for more thoughtful action and behaviours. People are reappraising their careers, their relationships and their finances, in some cases spending more time with family and less money on thoughtless activities. The key point here is to consciously choose your ‘lens’ – opportunity or problem? 

Friends & Enemies: We have strong social needs as humans and positive interactions on a daily basis with a supportive group are essential to motivation. Get together with your friends and colleagues, agree to support one another when the going gets tough, and find a common enemy (the recession; the competition; the threats to your business or team) and unite to get creative. 

Rewards: Mark agrees that this can be a difficult one: it’s hard for people to see where the benefits lie if you have already had a pay cut. However we all know that highly paid jobs don’t always produce contented employees. So it’s worth remembering Herzberg here – recognize that many tangible ‘rewards’ in the workplace fit under the ‘hygiene factors’ – on their own they don’t necessarily increase motivation. (See below for ideas for managers on how to meet employee’s reward needs). Think about the long term picture for yourself and reset your reward gauge from short term gratification to long term results. Ask yourself “where do I want to be in 3 – 5 years time and how can I leverage opportunities now to get to where I want to go?’ 

Heroes: Decide to be a hero. We all have some need for affirmation and recognition from others and this serves to motivate and influence our behaviour in front of others. Really challenging situations can push us into playing the victim role. Don’t let this happen – don’t lean against the wall and grow into the ivy, instead stand back look at the wall and decide to scale it – who knows what you’ll see from the top? Go and do what it is you know you can do to make a valuable difference in your role today - fix what needs to be fixed – don’t wait for someone else to sort it out.

6 Valuable Things Mangers can do to Motivate Employees 
1. Be Honest Honesty is the best policy when it comes to motivating your team. Employees will be questioning how their jobs and lives will be impacted by the recession. Don’t sugar-coat the information that you provide. Deliver clear messages and be honest about what is going on in your business. 

2. Stop Gossip in its Tracks Gossip is the number one killer of workplace motivation. Rumours about layoffs, cutbacks, or pay freezes can set your employees’ minds in motion. When you hear rumours floating around the workplace, squelch them as quickly as possible. If something becomes pervasive and problematic, you might have to hold a special meeting to boost team motivation. 

3. Recognition and Praise Notice good work. Recognise and encourage positive attitudes and call out exemplary behaviours. This is essential to do now more than ever. Aim to give each member of your team positive feedback every week. Knowing that your efforts have been observed, appreciated and publicly recognised is highly motivational and encourages more of the same. So use thank you emails, offer a 1:1 chat over coffee, an hour off on Friday, a call out at a team meeting, a certificate, a token voucher.....brainstorm a list with other managers in your organisation of cost effective ways to recognise good work. 

4. Listen to what really motivates. Workplace motivation during a recession will also be impacted by things that are happening in your employees’ lives. Have a 1:1 informal coffee and ask what’s happening – you don’t have to fix everything you hear, it’s just about listening to the needs and concerns of your employees. Understanding what motivates them can help you to identify how you can create a motivational environment. Too far away or too frequently out of the office to have a 1:1? Then try using Forté Interaction Reports – they show you what the top motivators are for each member of your team – click here for more information 

5. Help Others Choose the Lens. With the many threats that recession poses, your employees will be extremely susceptible to fear. Don’t let fear have a negative impact on team motivation. Talk instead about the opportunities that exist, encourage employees to identify tasks and projects that they find personally challenging and satisfying, use reorganisations as a chance to try out and learn something new. Engage people in decision making where at all possible: by presenting change as an opportunity and giving some control back to people you will reap the rewards in their engagement and productivity levels. Remember as a manager and leader you cannot control the economy, but you can exercise significant influence over the level of motivation of those who report to you in the workplace. See Mark’s article here For more on Herzberg see here

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