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Are You Motivating Your Workers or Driving Them Out the Door?

By Paul Finkle, CMC, SPHR, President & CEO/Principal

Whether your business is a small-town corner bakery, an upscale department store, or a multinational technology company, a well- motivated workforce is key to success. These days it seems many companies are better at talking about employee motivation than actually doing it – and that has left many businesses losing ground in the war for talent. Regardless of the economic climate, no business can afford to have its most experienced and valuable workers walking away to join the competition.

If your business has been bleeding workers, it may be time to take a step back and look at your practices. Many all-too-common business practices can sap employee motivation and dedication, leaving your company open to defections at a time when experienced and capable workers are more important than ever. If you have been trying to motivate your workforce and create a more positive and productive work environment, you may want to start by asking yourself these important questions.

  1. Do you tell your workers when they are doing a great job, or do they only hear from you when they do something wrong? Nothing provides motivation like a pat on the pack or a heartfelt “job well done”. Workers at all levels need to receive positive feedback when they do a great job as well as constructive criticism when mistakes are made.
  2. Does your firm provide clear and consistent guidelines for employee behavior, or are punishments and rewards doled out on an ad hoc basis? Are some workers seemingly getting away with murder, while others get written up for the slightest infraction? Any perceived unfairness in the way employees are disciplined and counseled is sure to sap motivation and breed resentment.
  3. Are your workers allowed reasonable time to take care of personal business, or does your management team actively discourage all personal activities? While no business can survive if its workers are surfing the web and chatting with their kids on the phone all day, many smart companies understand the value of allowing limited time for non-work related activities. Allowing workers to make personal phone calls and do personal research on the web during their break and lunch hours is a great way to foster work-life balance and keep workers motivated. Of course it is important to set down clear rules and expectations – and make sure the rules apply to everyone (see #2 above).
  4. Are there clear lines of communication between departments, or is everything a deep dark secret? Nothing fosters rumors and kills motivation quite as fast as secrecy. Making sure that there are clear lines of communication between workers and managers, between departments and between employees is one of the best ways to keep everyone on the same team.
  5. Does your management style foster teamwork and cooperation, or is it every player out for himself? The best organizations foster a sense of teamwork and cooperation among all their workers. While it is often impossible for all workers to personally get along, it is essential that all workers respect one another. Creating a workplace that fosters open communication, teamwork and honest feedback is one of the most effective ways to create a motivated and productive workforce.
  6. Does your organization foster a sense of greater purpose? Many workers, particularly younger workers want to feel as though they contribute to a higher purpose. If your work does not easily lend itself to this objective, consider offering “volunteer days” or sponsoring non-profits to help engage and motivate your staff towards a higher purpose.

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

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