Each month, “The Balance Sheet” provides questions and answers from experts on a topic that’s important to you as a manager. Please feel free to share this information with other colleagues who also manage people.
Q. I have many employees and I must ensure that they stay motivated. I know employees have to motivate themselves and that I can’t do it for them. So what is my role in the process? How do I play an influential part in motivating employees?
A. It’s been said that motivating a large group of employees can be like herding a group of cats. Each one is an individual, and therefore you must look at employee motivation in much the same way. Motivating the employees you supervise starts with getting to know them as individuals. This doesn’t mean you probe them for personal information. Instead, it means spending time with them individually, getting to know them at work and discovering their likes and dislikes in the general course of a workplace relationship. Through this process, your employees will perceive that you care about them, and this is crucial to creating an atmosphere where motivation flourishes. Eventually you will get a strong feel for the ways each of your employees can be motivated, and you can plan opportunities and rewards that fit these unique aspects of their motivational profile and personality makeup.
Q. Has the importance of maintaining high employee morale changed in the current business environment versus the past? And what are the implications regarding my role in keeping morale high?
A. High morale has always been important, but it’s “why” high morale is important that has changed. Understanding this change can help you keep morale high and ensure that you do not demotivate employees. Modern society has moved to an information and service economy. More than ever before, the assets of the majority of employers in this modern age are the ideas, innovation, creativity, experience, complex skills and intelligence of workers. Decay of these assets from low morale will cause any modern organization to lose ground to the competition. In the past, when the economy was fueled by industry, production and distribution systems, high morale helped retain hardworking employees, but there has been a shift in the profile of the typical worker. Rather than forcing established methods and production schedules on employees, employers now rely on their resourcefulness, creativity and innovative thinking. Maintaining a well-nurtured workforce that sticks around, produces ideas, innovates and grows its skills is vital to your economic survival, now more than ever.
Q. I have hired many employees, and most are enthusiastic go-getters in the beginning, but after several months their energy diminishes and they become just so-so in their productivity. What causes this, and should I refer them to BJC EAP when I see this happen?
A. When someone is fresh and new on the job, energy abounds. It’s like starting a new weight-loss program -- nothing could be more exciting. But then things change. To understand diminishing enthusiasm after hiring, look at what is happening between the employee and management at the time of hire. In the beginning, especially the first couple of months, new employees are treated like celebrities. They may receive higher compensation than they had at their previous job. They are made to feel excited about the future, with anticipated achievements. And they experience camaraderie. Along with just compensation, achievement and camaraderie have been identified in many studies as essential to maintaining employee enthusiasm. It appears that in the beginning, much of what drives enthusiasm is naturally in place. Learn how to keep this motivating atmosphere thriving and you will impact enthusiasm favorably. If your attempts to fire up enthusiasm are not successful and productivity standards are not satisfactory, a BJC EAP referral is a good idea.