In our article about the theory and nature of Motivating Employees we looked at the factors that motivate people to engage with their role and the organisation to produce their best work.

The main issues that motivate employees positively are not the financially based ones, although these can bring a measure of short term-enjoyment. In order to keep people engaged and happy in the long term, motivation comes from the intrinsic factors of recognition and appreciation, career advancement opportunities, personal growth, responsibility and interesting work.

Some managers and organisations would argue that making people happy at work is not their purpose.  People come to work to earn their salary and should automatically do their best.  But that is a false concept.  Happiness at work, as in life, is about being satisfied and content.

Of course, issues will occur, but in work situations, having faith that a manager and the organisation are committed to doing their best to minimise these issues will prevent too much obsessive thinking and behaviour based around the negatives of any given situation.

motivation at work

A small business must make many financial investments in its early years, upon which it must make a return, the most important being the investment made in people.  First and foremost, they must be the right people who are most closely culturally aligned with the business, and they must have the right skills so that they can quickly bring about that return on investment.

Looking at the above factors which motivate over a longer period, it’s clear that people who like what they are doing are engaged in their work and can see a clear career path, providing a reason to not look for another role, encouraging job longevity and stronger work ethics ensuring that the business is able to grow and compete.

Understanding people and what motivates them is the best way to keep them engaged and the best thing about this – it can all be achieved at a low cost or even no cost!

People have different factors that motivate them, and these can and will change throughout the course of a career.  A young person starting off is likely to be more concerned about financial reward and career progression than an employee within a few years of retirement, for whom a pension and secure retirement is all-important.

Employees with a young family will be looking for job security and sufficient financial reward to feel secure but will also be motivated by opportunity and the chance to grow and develop as their career progresses.  Then there are the staff who just want to come to work, do a good job, enjoy what they do and leave it all behind at the end of the day.  Recognition of a job well done can be enough, although how this recognition is given will determine how much it is appreciated.

“Interesting work” is often quoted as an important issue in motivation.  Naturally, some tasks are by nature repetitive and lacking in any need for creative input, but by matching a personality to the role such tasks will not be demotivating but will instead bring a measure of comfort and enjoyment to the individual who carries them out.  They will be proud of their work and recognising and appreciating this is motivation enough.  How this is done is very much down to what the individual perceives as motivating.

For example, a Receptionist whose job is to; greet visitors, offer refreshment, perhaps open the post and distribute it, take messages and ensure they are passed on, is critical to how the business is perceived as a first impression.  In a bigger organisation, the person who opens and distributes post, ensures that outgoing mail is correctly assigned and all in timely way, is critical in that this is an important aspect of organisation communication.

Every job matters, and it is essential that the organisation recognises and appreciates this

Work motivation

Recognition and appreciation can be formalised by a weekly or monthly employee recognition scheme. Rewards don’t have to be huge to be appreciated by the recipient.  The public recognition of a job well done can be sufficient.  It doesn’t have to be top down, either.  Nomination by peers and from the floor up can be more satisfying than from a manager or leader with whom there is less daily contact.

A job is often defined by a job description or role profile and, sadly, this is often no more than a list of tasks with no definition of what is important to the organisation’s success.  This is an unappreciated and underused document, often filed away and never used beyond recruitment and induction.

It can identify the opportunities for advancement and growth and show a pathway to achievement.  For example, by including such factors as:

  • How long should it take to be fully competent in the role?
  • What is the next direct step to progress?
  • How long should it take to reach the next step?
  • What are the next set of skills necessary to take the next step?

Including this information in the profile can be valuable to both the organisation and the individual, giving a basis for discussions at monthly and annual reviews, showing that the organisation is committed to giving growth opportunities to its existing staff.

If there is some leeway to assign money for rewards, consider how this can be used in small portions to achieve a good return.

A weekly breakfast, for example, when staff get to give ideas and thoughts on how the organisation is performing.  This can also be an opportunity for those who want to present more formally on a work issue that interests them.

Small gifts with inscriptions such as tumblers, key rings and pens are a simple way to say; ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ (but be sure to avoid the P11D limit).  Any such gift should always be delivered with humility and in a way appropriate to the individual.

Engagement can be strengthened by matters that go beyond the confines of the work environment.  For example, how Green is the organisation?  What more could be done?  There is likely to be a champion within the organisation who has the enthusiasm to work with the leadership and management to make this a serious workplace issue.  Or perhaps a charitable venture, that staff can support if they want to?  This could be something personal to an individual, or the choice of the organisation.

Ultimately there are many, many ways in which an organisation can be a motivating place to work.  “People are our greatest asset” is the most quoted phrase in business culture.  We would say “people are your only asset.”  So, treat and use them well and they will respond in kind.

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