What motivates you to work? While many leadership teams think the secret to boosting employee performance and job satisfaction is based solely on monetary rewards, team building events, training, awards, and a long list of other recognition tools, for most people, motivation lies in just one word — why.
Think of it this way. How many things do you do just because? You have no reason for your actions, and you don’t know why you do them. Now, think about how many things you do for a specific reason. You know exactly why you take action and either expect or hope for a specific result.
As human beings, we’re programmed to respond to the power of why from a very young age. Ask your child to clean his or her room, and they’ll most likely ask you why (before they learn that asking why they need to clean their room is a very bad idea). Brush your teeth! Why? Eat your peas! Why? Look both ways before you cross the street! Why?
You get the idea.
The power of why doesn’t disappear when you reach adulthood, and it’s just as important in the workplace as it is anywhere else in a person’s life. In other words, employees are motivated by why, and it’s up to the leadership team to communicate why to them.
You have to work late on Tuesday. Why? We’re launching a new product that failed in the past but we need you to develop the software/advertising/pricing/etc. for it. Why? We need you to start following this process instead of the one you’ve been using for years. Why?
Again, you get the idea.
Few people are motivated to dive into a new project or complete a task if they have no idea how their actions will impact the company, and even fewer are motivated if they have no idea how their actions will benefit themselves. Again, this is human nature, and you can’t really fault people for it. If you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will, right?
The key to improve employee engagement, performance, and job satisfaction in your company is to learn how to leverage the power of why. If you follow the five tips below to tap into the “why” at your organization, you’ll increase employee happiness, which naturally leads to happier customers, more sales, and business growth. After all, happy employees are your company’s most powerful brand advocates and source of word-of-mouth marketing!
[clickToTweet tweet=”Asking the right questions can boost #motivation” quote=”Asking the right questions can be effective in boosting motivation.”]
1. Use Tools to Communicate
No one feels motivated if they feel like they’re being kept out of the loop. However, the more you include people and keep them all on the same page, the more engaged they’ll become.
Tools like Trello, Slack, Wrike, Asana, and Basecamp are excellent and affordable options for team communications and project management!
2. Show Employees Why They Matter
What your employees do — no matter how small — affects your customers, other employees, and the success of the company. In other words, their actions affect whether or not everyone will still be employed next year.
With that in mind, it’s important that you acknowledge every employee’s efforts — no matter how small — because they all matter. Take the time to show them specifically how their efforts impact your stakeholders (i.e., your customers, other employees, the community, investors, suppliers, and so on). Show each of them their why on a continual basis!
3. Be Transparent
If your employees really matter to you, then you won’t hide information from them. You’ll want them to be in the know and fully engaged. Not sharing information doesn’t equate to power. In fact, it has the opposite effect.
Use your communication tools and share as much information as you can about the company’s current and future goals, how you’re doing, and how you’re going to get there. Again, the more they know, the better they’ll understand why they matter to the company.
4. Prove You’re Grateful
Don’t just say thank you. Show it. Rewards aren’t the only way to motivate employees, but they are an important part because they reinforce the fact that you recognize their efforts. It’s another way to show that they matter.
The key is to ensure it’s not impossible to receive rewards. They don’t have to be big to be impactful. Remember, you don’t want an employee’s why to be, “to get a tangible reward.” Rewards should support not direct your employee motivation efforts.
5. Set an Example
If your leader’s don’t walk the walk, then why should anyone else? I remember at one time earlier in my career when I was working for a huge corporation, and the head of my business unit left quite early on Christmas Eve while announcing to the entire team, “It’s good to be king.” The rest of us were not allowed to leave until 5:30. Suffice it to say, the employees were not happy or motivated by that type of leadership.
Fast forward a couple of years later at the same company and a new CEO was in charge of the same business unit (yes, I still worked there despite it obviously being a terrible environment – that’s another story entirely). He broke his ankle and couldn’t drive. The company was in the middle of being acquired in a hostile takeover, and we weren’t allowed to spend any extra money. My marketing budget was being taken away more and more every day. It’s an understatement to say that employees were very unmotivated when they saw the CEO being driven to and from work on a daily basis by limousine – a completely unjustifiable expense.
These two stories are meant to demonstrate how a leader’s actions can have a significant effect on employee performance and retention. On one side, I was being asked to cut my marketing budget by millions of dollars, and on the other side, I was watching the CEO be chauffeured in a limo. I and many other employees could not find a why to keep us engaged or happy.
Make a Commitment to Communicate Why
Most importantly, every leader and manager must be committed to communicating why to employees. This is a top-down imperative that everyone must be held accountable for implementing on a daily basis.
Every employee’s why could be different. As the leader, it’s up to you to find out what that why is and leverage it for positive reasons.
I guess the challenge is whether the leader themselves know the ‘why’. While I think that some assume their people will figure out the ‘why’ themselves, I wonder how many aren’t sharing the ‘why’ because they don’t know either.
Marina Pilipenko says
Implementing time-tracking software is a great way to motivate employees. It brings more transparency and keeps everyone on the same page about the progress.
We are using actiTIME. It is simple, affordable and provides very flexible reporting tool.
Susan Gunelius says
Dana, You’re absolutely right! There is a trickle down effect in business. If the leader doesn’t know why (and like you, I’ve seen it time and again), then no one else will know it or care about it. Thanks for adding this insight to the conversation!