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. What are the best ways to help employees feel appreciated and motivated if there is no extra money to improve pay? Unfortunately, I need every employee to pull their weight, even if we don’t have one extra dime.
A. More money would not have a lasting impact, but the following will: 1) Periodically, praise an employee in front of others, especially if the audience is people the employee looks up to or feels are important. 2) Keep the employee out of the dark and included or involved in organizational matters that concern his or her job. 3) Keep your eyes open for things the employee does well and make a positive comment about it. Use the same moment to ask your employee how things are going, and whether he or she needs anything from you to do their job. 4) Give an assignment or project that by its nature shows how much you trust the employee with something important or significant. In most instances, these four strategies will add significant job satisfaction.
Q. One of my employees appears unmotivated to go the extra mile, which is unlike her peers. I can’t diagnosis the problem, but what if BJC EAP could help? There are no job problems, and I do consider her work more than satisfactory.
A. Something about this employee’s work style is concerning you despite the satisfactory level of performance she is achieving. True, you don’t have a reason to suggest BJC EAP or make a supervisor referral, but it doesn’t mean that over the next few weeks or months you can’t monitor work performance; inquire about her productivity level, satisfaction with the job, and interest in the work. Consider gathering observational data to support your inquiry about her motivation. This is not a diagnostic inquiry, but good supervision. Many supervisors have a gut-level impression that an employee suffers with some unknown personal problem. They can’t and shouldn’t use this impression to conduct a diagnostic assessment. However, this does not mean that the supervisor can’t do anything with his or her sense of concern. In fact, it would be ill-advised to completely ignore these hunches. When you meet, the employee may share information in your meeting that leads you to suggest BJC EAP.
Q. How do I keep my best employees motivated? I spend most of my time with those who need help or have troubles of one type or another. Is it unfair to assume that self-motivated high achievers maintain peak performance without much of a supervisor’s attention?
A. Although magnificent performers may appear to replenish their motivation continuously, it won’t stay that way for long without your playing a key role in fueling their excitement. You may never notice discontentment, but they are likely to leave and work for someone else. You will get little or no warning that they are growing disenchanted with the status quo. Use three strategies consistently. 1) Praise the employee in front of others (not his or her peers necessarily, because that could get old, but others to whom the employee looks up — top managers, community notables, thought leaders, etc.). 2) Ask the employee how his or her job is going, and discuss ideas, new approaches, new products and the “next new thing.” 3) Consider what your employee can do that’s new and creative, or that has significant impact on the organization. The message you send is how much he or she is valued.