We can all recognize highly motivated and engaged employees when we see them. They’re more productive, they don’t hold back, and they go the extra mile. But why?
The simple answer is because they want to. They’re inspired by their work, they believe in their organisation and they feel connected to what it’s trying to achieve.
Imagine working in an environment where everyone felt inspired and loved what they did every day. It almost sounds too good to be true, but high-functioning teams do exist: organisations such as Google, Atlassian and Microsoft show us it can be done. These teams share a common denominator: their leadership constantly motivates and inspires employees.
As a leader, how do you help create an environment where people feel engaged and motivated? Here are six strategies to help drive engagement and inspire your employees.
1. Set goals to create meaning
Goal-setting gives employees meaning in their day-to-day roles: employees who are brought along on the goal-setting journey are 3.6 times more likely to be engaged than those who are not. To motivate employees, you should:
- Establish what’s expected of them
- Help them visualize what success in their role looks like
- Explain how their contribution makes a difference to the business
Creating the connection between your people’s objectives and the goals of the organisation is particularly important. For example, if your organisation’s mission is ‘Awesome customer service’ how is this value reflected for an employee working in the finance department?
Recognizing that each team member has different sources of motivation, then linking these back to the overall goals of your organisation is key. In fact, surveys have shown that 55% of employees – regardless of age, sex, region or tenure – would be more motivated if they believed they were doing meaningful work. One-third said they would take more pride in their work and be willing to work extra hours to get the job done.
2. Celebrate milestones big and small
It’s not just the big wins that should be acknowledged: setting and celebrating mini-milestones keeps employees motivated in their day-to-day roles.
In addition to yearly or quarterly goals, set goals to track what your people are achieving on a weekly or monthly basis. These don’t have to be performance-driven or KPI-focused. They can be social or cultural, or they can focus on personal development – for example, setting a goal for dealing with challenging stakeholders.
Celebrating milestones is also about understanding the challenges your people are facing. When a mini-milestone isn’t met, take the opportunity to see what’s blocking your team’s progress, how it can be overcome, and whether the end-goal needs to be re-assessed.
3. Provide meaningful feedback
Praise is always welcome, but becomes far more meaningful when it is linked to concrete examples. “Great presentation, well done,” is nice feedback to receive, but “Great presentation, your explanation of how this impacts our customer base will help us improve customer loyalty,” pinpoints exactly how someone’s contribution benefits the company. Giving specific, targeted feedback tells your team that you’re paying attention.
The same goes for providing constructive feedback on areas of improvement: keep this feedback personalized and actionable. Consider the golden ratio of 5:1 – if you deliver five positive takeaways to one negative piece of feedback, people won’t feel overwhelmed with criticism. The goal should be to help your people grow and develop, so providing ongoing, timely feedback is crucial.
4. Empower problem solving and learning
Create space for your people to solve their own problems. You can provide support and guidance, but it’s important to let employees lead with their own ideas and solutions. That way, they’ll know their skills and perspectives are valued. Of the 560 employees surveyed in Deloitte’s Talent 2020 report 42% of respondents looking for a new role believed their current job did not make good use of their skills and abilities. Nurturing a culture where problem solving and learning is encouraged means:
- Listening to your team’s ideas
- Embracing their unique skills
- Encouraging self-directed learning
- Allowing them to take ownership of their work
- Creating a safe space where failure is framed as a learning opportunity
5. Follow through on promises
Keep employees motivated by establishing an atmosphere of trust and consistency that’s sustained from the top-down. Be mindful of the promises you make: these can have a direct impact on employee engagement because as a manager, you represent the organisation. Often, employees don’t distinguish between the promises made by a manager and those made by the company, which means losing trust in a manager can mean losing trust in the whole organisation.
Going back on a promise violates an employee’s psychological contract: this is the unwritten – but no less real – set of expectations of the employment relationship. This implicit contract exists as a two-way exchange: in return for hard work an employee gets the promotion, learning opportunities, conference trips, or opportunity to participate in the interesting project. If an employee’s hard work is met without the promised reward, it’s not just motivation that suffers.It can also lead to feelings of resentment and betrayal, which inevitably leads to increased employee turnover.
6. Experiment and learn
There is no magical, one-size-fits-all formula for keeping employees motivated. Maintaining motivation in your people is an ongoing task filled with opportunities to experiment and learn what works (and what doesn’t work) for your team. These are just a few approaches to keep in mind as you look for better ways to keep your employees happy, engaged and energized.