In my last article, I wrote about how employees can reignite the embers of disengagement in the workplace (Northwoods Commerce, December 2014/January 2015, “I’ve lost my mojo and I don’t know where to fi nd it!”). In that article I shared the almost unbelievable numbers, as published by Gallup, that 70 percent of U.S. workers are “not engaged” or are “actively disengaged” at work. That is an astonishing estimated $450 to $550 billion loss of productivity!
As I researched what roles employers can take when they find their employees have warped into comatose, lifeless drones that have somehow lost any semblance of emotion, I discovered (and perhaps already knew) that the steps toward addressing this very issue may be more simplistic than managers and supervisors would think.
I first thought about what it is, exactly, that gets me jazzed up to come to work each day. No doubt, just the sheer gratitude of actually having a job in today’s economy gets an honorable mention, having been that person sitting in the middle of her living room floor, huddling over a tub of rocky road ice cream (which at that time in my life was my idea of a go-to so-lution for self-pity), unemployed and not really knowing how I was going to make my next house and car payment.
But it goes beyond the appreciation of being gainfully employed. As I delved into my bailiwick of books on employee motivation, I reached for Dr. Bob Nelson’s books, The 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook and of course, The 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work (all of which sit neatly on the shelf next to my awesome collection of For Dummies books). Specifically, in his book The 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, Dr. Nelson notes the numerous ways that leaders can motivate their teams. In addition to the countless number of books published, the articles written and those posted on the Internet about this topic, I thought it would be interesting to post on my own personal Facebook (FB) page the question, “What keeps you motivated and/or engaged at work?” My plan was to keep the question posted for 12 hours and see what kind of a response I would get, of course mentioning that anyone who left a comment would be kept anonymous in the article.
While I did receive a few more humorous comments (this was after all, posted on my personal FB page), I also received some really great comments, too. You may be surprised to learn that today’s employees may not need a pay raise as much as they do a personal “thanks” for a job well done from their manager. The number one motivator, according to Dr. Nelson, is to “Personally thank employees for doing a good job—one on one, in writing, or both. Do it timely, often and sincerely.”
I’ve often mentioned in casual conversation to different people just how lucky I am to work in a department where our leadership team regularly says “thank you for all that you do” or “you’re so awesome” and “I appreciate all that you do for the team.” I’ve even heard this expression of gratitude come all the way from the highest level of administration! How can you not be motivated by that?
Comments from FB respondents collected from my minisurvey reflected this same thing. Insights included: “Recognition for going above and beyond…doesn’t have to be a great big fanfare, just recognition!” Someone else said, “To be appreciated and recognized for good achievements instead of being noticed for the not so good all the time.” And another simply listed a number of things, such as “Appreciation … trust … positive incentives … reward … acknowledgement.”
The number two motivator Dr. Nelson mentions is, “Be willing to take the time to meet with and listen to employees—as much as they need or want.” With busy work schedules, deadlines and battling all the unexpected day-to-day fires that need immediate extinguishing, you may find taking this time out with each of your team members may be difficult; however, it’s necessary when you see someone is beginning to reach the point of engagement. This is where having the ability to communicate and perhaps a general understanding of personality styles can be of great value to have in your leadership toolbox. As one FB respondent said, “Supervisor understanding during tough times in an employee’s life.” Not only is this a good practice of interpersonal communication but it is also an expression of empathy toward staff. Good communication skills, being able to express empathy, continuing to develop one’s emotional intelligence, recognizing and mentioning the individual strengths in your members, especially when they are not seeing it themselves, will not only keep leadership motivated but may very well prevent the team members they are leading from falling into a disengaged funk.
I like what one survey participant said: “Having your boss see more in you than you see in yourself.” This will open the window that allows employees to see that they truly are valued. They can perhaps see that their piece of the puzzle and the work that they are doing is key to the success of the organization as a whole.
Michelle Madl-Soehren has developed curriculum and delivered training sessions specifically related to personnel issues, professional development, small business development and entrepreneurship in a variety of positions over the last 16 years. Working in various roles in the field of human resources, sales, marketing and customer service, Michelle is a natural leader highly skilled in partnering and establishing interpersonal relationships. Her current role is business development specialist for Nicolet College. Michelle earned her bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from Mount Mary College and a master of science in management and organizational behavior from Silver Lake College. In 2010 she was appointed to the state advisory board as the Wisconsin Technical College System representative for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and has sat on various boards throughout the Nicolet College district, including the Forest County Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Rhinelander Inc., Tomahawk Mainstreet and The Warehouse Four Season Center for the Arts in Eagle River. In 2010 she founded and continues to serve as the visionary leader of the local networking group Northwoods Women in Business. Michelle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (715) 365-4492.