Before I became a dental office manager, I earned a master’s degree in Organizational Development. Consultants in this field help businesses grow by implementing organizational changes to enhance employee knowledge, effectiveness, and overall performance. Corporations pay thousands of dollars to have a consultant help them find ways to better motivate their employees for improved performance. In most of the businesses that I’ve worked with, the changes that needed to happen to increase employee performance were things that needed to start from the top. In other words, it wasn’t the employees who needed to change first but the managers who hired the consultant in the first place.
Webster's Dictionary defines motivation as something inside people that drives them to action. It’s also important to differentiate between external motivation, such as higher pay, and internal motivation, such as work ethic. This internal drive varies in different people, but the common thread is that internal motivation is a much stronger force than external rewards. Therefore, since motivation comes from within, owners and managers need to acknowledge and cultivate the motivation that their employees already have.
Am I saying that hiring the right employee is not important? Not at all. However, we tend to complain about our employees not being motivated, without stopping to take a look at the environment in which they work. Quality leadershipis the answer to helping motivate employees. Unfortunately, most people are not natural-born leaders. With that in mind, here is a quick-study strategy guide on what you can do to turn an unmotivated employee around.
Be approachable and easy to communicate with —Check in with each employee on a regular basis, and let them know it is okay to come to you anytime with anything you might need to know, whether it be good or bad news. When an employee feels their boss is open to communication, they will work harder and be less afraid to come to the manager in times of need.
Give employees needed resources — Employees feel unappreciated when they are told to do a job that is virtually impossible to achieve the desired outcome without specific resources. When an employee sees managers investing in them to help them be better at their job and make them more efficient, the employee will push to accomplish more for the organization.
Keep employees in the loop —When employees feel like they are informed of key events, goals to be reached, and important up-coming changes, they are more likely to get involved without excessive cajoling or bribery from management. In contrast, employees who feel they are kept in the dark are the ones who tend to clock in and out without any consideration of the bigger goal.
Remember that people like to be recognized —Even the most motivated people get burned out and lose motivation if they don’t get some sort of acknowledgement or recognition from time to time. This does not have to be much, really—it could be as simple as a “thank you” to an employee who went above and beyond or a recognition when they did something well. These small tributes are very meaningful to most employees. Finding ways to make sure employees get frequent positive feedback at appropriate times will help to motivate the targeted employees, in addition to anyone around them who will become motivated to earn that recognition too.
Look in the mirror —The best way to show employees what is expected is to lead by example. If you ask your employees to go the extra mile, show up on time, maybe stay late here and there... yet you show up late, don’t put in extra effort, and leave right after the day is done... what is that saying to them? If you are feeling that your employees aren’t giving it their all, before pointing fingers, take a look in the mirror. Are you showing them what a motivated person looks like?
Give them the training they need —New employees may be exceptionally motivated to give their best, push harder, and help wherever they can. But if they are not trained well, they will not be able to do that—leading to a sense of discouragement and reluctance to put in extra effort. Investing in training will not only increase their skill level but also show that you are investing in them as an asset to the organization.
Avoid “all work and no play” —You spend more time with your work family than you do with your own family. If the focus is all about work and no fun, you’ll have employees who are eager for their shift to end so they can get home and enjoy life. Owners and managers tend to push to achieve goals, but there needs to be a balance of fun along with the push. Playing games, rewarding success, and enjoying the little things helps keep employees motivated and shows them they are appreciated. Let them know that they are personally valued in your organization and that their effort matters.
These strategies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to increasing motivation in your employees. When you begin at the top by truly changing management’s approach to motivating employees, you’ll see bigger and more lasting results. Of course, this kind of significant culture change can’t happen overnight, but by implementing small and immediate steps at the management level, you’ll see a trickle-down effect that will lead to a more motivated staff.
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