Why do your employees come in to work every day? Is it because they have to pay the rent or is there something else? Are your team members best buddies with each other? Does your company’s mission align with their values? Are they getting valuable experience that will further their career goals? Is it your coffee? Do you even know what motivates your employees?
One of the chief jobs of managers is motivating employees, but if you make assumptions about what motivates them, you may be barking up the wrong tree and getting a lot less performance than you’d like. Most employers use money as the motivator. But money is like an addictive drug. It takes more and more to get the same performance out of somebody.
I once met a guy who said “I want my sales people in a house they can’t afford and a car they can’t afford and a credit card to pay for expensive vacations. Then they’ll be motivated to sell.”
It made me laugh. But the truth is, those sales people are just motivated to make money—not necessarily for you and not necessarily ethically. Research has shown that—while money works for some people in the long term and for most people in the short term, it’s not really the most effective motivator for getting top performance from your employees
So, what are powerful motivators?
Passion: In the article How to Kill Creativity, Teresa M. Amabile, senior associate dean for research at the Harvard Business School makes the point that an inner passion to solve a problem motivates far better creative performance than does an extrinsic reward like money. Do your employees really care about what you’re doing? Are they personally invested in solving the problem, creating new approaches? Are their values aligned with what you’re doing? And do you value their passion?
People: Research has shown that the main reason people leave a job is because of their front line manager. So, how are your front line managers? Would you want to work for them? Have they been trained on how to manage people effectively to build teamwork and get results or were they just really good at sales or programming so you put them in charge of everybody else? Have you built a team that works well together and makes everyone feel like they’re making a valuable contribution?
Career Development: I noted in an earlier blog that most businesses want to hire somebody who already knows how to do 100 percent of the job. It seems easier. But someone who only knows 70 percent and wants to get good at the other 30 percent is personally invested in pushing him-or-herself to work, hard.
Work/Life Balance: Some people will take less money if they know they can take off for their kids’ school recitals, take mom to her doctor’s appointment or bring their dogs to work.
We had one client that was about to lose a key employee in their technical assistance call center. They wanted to offer the guy more money. But I learned that the man’s main frustration was he was alone on his shift and a lot of calls piled up before his shift. He couldn’t help his customers and no amount of money was going to make it okay for him to fail on the job all day. He wanted someone else on the shift with him. The client was amazed “How did you know that?” they asked.
“I asked questions and listened to him!”
It’s great if you can know your employees well enough and adjust your motivators accordingly. But that’s not always possible. What is possible is for each department to figure out what motivators it can provide that are aligned with its business interests. Then hire people who are looking for those motivators.
You have to be careful. One client wanted to advertise they were looking for a former stay-at-home mom to handle the front desk. They figured she’d be grateful for the job and nurturing with people who came in.
Ummmm. No. That’s a discrimination suit waiting to happen. But you can say you don’t require a lot of experience but you need excellent people skills.
And, since managing and motivating people is the key ingredient in running a great team, we can help. ValentineHR’s is starting a management class for companies that want to learn the fundamentals of great management. We’ll have more details soon!
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.