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Last Updated on August 19, 2021

How to Improve Employee Motivation in the Workplace

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How to Improve Employee Motivation in the Workplace

Motivation in the workplace is a big topic, more so right now due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the onset of the “new normal” working environment. Motivation is featured highly on every leader’s agenda as the quick transition to working from home (WFH) took place, coupled with the mass adoption of digital forms of communication as the main point of connection.

There has been a shifting landscape as the tectonic plates of aspiration, value, and meaning collide with what motivates individuals and teams in the workplace.

In this article, I will talk about how to improve individual employee motivation and how to improve team motivation, as what motivates a team to high performance can differ from that of an employee.

Now, let’s dive into what’s really going on. Here are three powerful ways to improve employee motivation post-pandemic.

1. Give Employees Autonomy

I think a large majority of companies have missed a golden opportunity to build trust during the pandemic and subsequent new normal era. Instead, they chose to focus on measuring productivity and quantifying efficiency over autonomy and trust. As a result, they inadvertently squandered the opportunity that was in front of them.

At the same time, for the employee, the veil has been lifted, the curtain pulled back, and the magic has worn off. However you want to look at it, the shift from 9 to 5 office culture to WFH has left many employees wondering why—why did I tolerate the long commute to the office? We’re all those in-person meetings necessary?

Work-life in the 21st Century has been put under the microscope and scrutinized because of a virus. employees are often packed like sardines into hot and sweaty train carriages or sitting motionless in rush hour traffic for hours on end, not to mention the pressure of carefully planning the day’s outfit all just to be seen working at the desk and readily available to anyone who wants to stop by for a disruptive but well-meaning natter.

While the move to WFH has provided some additional benefits, such as more time with family, a more flexible working location, no commute, and casual dress, it has also caused some issues to show up.

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These issues relate directly to business stress and health. They include increased expectations around being available beyond the scope of normal working hours, being hyper-visible online, answering Slack messages at the drop of a hat, increased use of urgent language, and daily video training calls scheduled intrusively throughout lunch breaks.

All of which to say, work-life balance and personal power have been compromised, and a huge opportunity for increased focus and motivation are missed due to the factors I’ll explain below.

The Home Has Become the Office

Society is working longer and harder than before and finds it harder to switch off because now, the office is also the home. Managers who understand that the boundaries between personal and professional have been violated and understand that working from home isn’t necessarily ideal will get the best from their employees.

Managers can be more thoughtful by showing respect and awareness of the situation, such as cramped home environments (not everyone has a home office), children causing general disruption, managing household visitors from cleaners, parcel deliveries, and grocery drop-offs, combined with the added pressure to always be available online.

To motivate employees, where possible, allow them to gain freedom over their daily work. When employees feel trusted to make decisions and operate independently, it promotes feelings of well-being and self-confidence.

A 2020 study on the future of work showed that with covid-19 and the new normal, more people than ever are moving jobs for autonomy and flexibility. “People want to control when they work, where they work, and what they’re working on,” says Arvind Malhotra Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.[1]

The upshot is that the level of autonomy that employees experienced during the pandemic has, in turn, led to changes in employee expectation around the degree of autonomy that they expect going forward.

Simply put, employees now value autonomy more than they did in the pre-pandemic era. Therefore, companies that adapt to this will inevitably attract the best talent by default. Those that don’t will lose out, and rightly so.

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This new outlook on life is also impacting the way employees view the traditional working hours of 9 to 5. Business owners must now consider rethinking this paradigm as it allows employees to complete work in blocks or batches, which is more convenient for the employee.

In essence, autonomy in all regards is now the attribute employees are prioritizing and can be used as a method of motivation.

2. Go Deeper

Taking it a step further, feeling valued as an employee and respected for who you are as a person beyond your role at the company is poised to become a key factor in motivation in the workplace.

People want to feel understood, valued, and respected. The introduction of “slack time” (i.e., letting employees focus on projects outside the scope of their normal role, e.g., developing a side project, learning to code, or picking up a language) has been adopted by many of the major tech players for some time.

When companies embrace the pursuits and endeavors of the individual beyond the workplace and promote them internally, it makes the employee feel valued and in turn creates meaning. This should not be overlooked. The value of doing meaningful work is what it’s all about.

I have experienced this myself working for Playground XYZ, the innovative attention-based mobile company headquartered out of Australia that readily embraced my role as an author, entrepreneur, and mentor, which made it such a privilege to work for them. When meaning can be attached to the job, it promotes a huge win for the company as employees identify more deeply with the products they are representing, the values of the company, and its core mission.

What companies should consider as it relates to employee motivation levels is the optimal level of side-project time to boost motivation in business. Does 10% make an adequate difference? How about 40%?

Whatever the percentage is, companies that can praise employees’ talents at the individual level and showcase them as valued members of the team will thrive.

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3. Be Mindful When Using Technology

Zoom fatigue? We’ve all been there—a series of grueling back-to-back Zoom calls, flickering eyelids, the mental fog at the end of a long day fuelled by caffeine and inhaled lunches, and the urge to write just one more email.

But stop—this is not what the future of work will look like. There is a dire need for the consideration of building a “technology detox” into the normal routine of the working day of every employee so that it is adopted and becomes common practice.

Mindfulness in the workplace is another method of improving engagement, cognitive focus, and productivity. The mistake is reconciling that longer hours equal greater results.

Instead, having flexibility around walking meetings, in-person catch-ups, and time away from the requirement to be contactable boosts positivity and makes employee motivation levels sore. Imagine if every employee felt this burst of life.

The pandemic has shown that work can be done outside of the office, but there is a giant opportunity waiting to be unlocked. Those companies that find the appropriate balance will prevail.

Improving Team Motivation in the Workplace

Now, here are two important points to consider for improving team motivation in the workplace.

Doing the Opposite

This might sound counterintuitive, but it works. Yet, so many leaders get this wrong. The principle is that when you’re winning, it’s time to drive the team harder and when you’re losing, it’s time to show relatability and understanding.

Why then do so many leaders fail to put this into practice when it truly matters?

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Most leaders panic when they see falling revenue numbers and instead of adopting a nurturing growth-centered presence, they go on a rampage, micromanaging and haranguing, destroying momentum, and creating a pressure cooker-type environment, which only serves to stifle and demotivate the team further.

I encourage you to try out doing the opposite if your team is currently behind on their numbers right now. Follow this strategy, and see how your attitude changes the results and goes a long way to building the momentum back up.

Notice how new information flows to you and fresh insights that would previously have remained hidden are suddenly revealed by the team. It takes courage to do this, but it demonstrates trust and empathy from which a newfound team dynamic can be developed. This is the glue that forms a strong bond between team members and their manager, which in turn promotes sharing of ideas and culture.

At times of heightened stress, motivate through encouragement, learning, and growth. The last thing your team needs is for you to turn into an overbearing manager who displays your stress levels for all to see.

This is poor leadership. The best leaders can control their emotions while giving employees what they need—a helping hand to understand that they will rise to the top through preparation and a solid plan of action.

Maintaining Core Values

When employees understand and operate by the company values, they have a road map, a battle plan, a way to make decisions that frees them from the mental overload of decision paralysis. When company values aren’t clear, made obvious, or ingrained, the culture of the organization will suffer dramatically. It will be lifeless.

Values are the rudder in the water that directs the wind in the sails and serve as guiding principles that must be taught, repeated daily, and lived by.

Ask yourself this, “what do we stand for?”

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If you can’t answer this from a company perspective, then you are rudderless and when the storm hits, be prepared to take a battering.

More Tips on Motivating Employees

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] UNC Kenan-Flagler: Shaping the future of work

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Tim Castle

Bestselling Author, Coach and Co-Founder of My Book Habit

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Published on September 27, 2021

What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

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What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

We’ve all needed a bit of inspiration at some time in our lives. In the past year or two, that need most likely has grown. Who hasn’t been trying to shed those extra pounds we put on during the pandemic? Who hasn’t felt the need to fake a little enthusiasm at joining yet another Zoom call? Who hasn’t been trying to get excited about trekking back into the office for a 9 to 5 (longer if you add in the commute)? Feeling “meh” is a sign of our times. So, too, is incentive motivation, a way to get back our spark, our drive, and our pursuit of the things we say we want most.

In this article, I’ll talk about what incentive motivation is and how it works.

What Is Incentive Motivation?

Incentive motivation is an area of study in psychology focused on human motivation. What is it that gets us to go from couch potato to running a marathon? What spurs us to get the Covid vaccine—or to forgo it? What is it that influences us to think or act in a certain way? Incentive motivation is concerned with the way goals influence behavior.[1] By all accounts, it works if the incentive being used holds significance for the person.

The Roots of Incentive Motivation

Incentive motivation’s roots can be traced back to when we were children. I’m sure many of us have similar memories of being told to “eat all our veggies” so that we would “grow up to be big and strong,” and if we did eat those veggies, we would be rewarded with a weekend trip to a carnival or amusement park or playground of choice. The incentive of that outing was something we wanted enough to have it influence our behavior.

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Growing up, incentive motivation continues to play a major role in what we choose to do. For example, while we may not have relished the idea of spending years studying, getting good grades, pursuing advanced degrees, and graduating with sizeable debt from student loans, a great many of us decided to do just that. Why? Because the end goal of a career, a coveted title, and the associated incentives of financial reward and joy in doing something we love were powerful motivators.

One researcher who believes in the power of incentive motivation is weight management expert, co-author of the book State of Slim, and co-founder of the transformational weight loss program of the same name, Dr. Holly Wyatt. Her work with her clients has proven time and again that when motivation fizzles, incentives can reignite those motivational fires.

“Eat more veggies, exercise, keep track of my weight: These things and more DO work, but bottom line, you gotta keep doing them. Setting up rituals and routines to put your efforts on auto-pilot is one way. And along the way, the use of both external and internal motivators helps keep people on track. External motivation sources are those things outside of ourselves that help to motivate us. They’re powerful, like pouring gasoline on a fire. But they may not last very long. Internal motivators are more tied into the reasons WHY we want to reach our goals. In my State of Slim weight loss program, we spend a lot of time on what I call ‘peeling back the onion’ to find the WHY. I think the internal motivators are more powerful, especially for the long-term, but they may take longer to build. They’re the hot coals that keep our motivational fires burning.”

Examples of Incentive Motivation

In the way of incentive motivation, specific to the external motivators, Dr. Wyatt challenges her clients to commit to changing just one behavior that will help them reach their weight loss goals. Clients must then agree to a “carrot” or a “stick” as either their reward for accomplishing what they say they will do or as their punishment for falling short. Those incentives might be something like enjoying a spa day if they do the thing they said they would do or sweating it out while running up and down the stairwell of their apartment building a certain number of times as punishment for not following through.

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Whatever they choose, the goal must be something they really want, and the incentive must be something that matters to them enough to influence their behaviors in reaching those goals. Some people are more motivated by some sort of meaningful reward (a carrot) whereas, other people are more motivated by some sort of negative consequence or the taking away of a privilege (the stick).

Another example of incentive motivation is playing out currently with companies and government entities offering perks to people who get the Covid vaccine. Nationwide, offers are being made in the way of lottery tickets, cash prizes, concert seats, free admission to events and discounts for food, and even free drink at local restaurants and bars. The list of incentives being offered to the public to increase vaccination rates is pretty extensive and quite creative.[2]  These incentives are financial, social, and even hit on moral sensibilities. But is this particular incentive motivation working?

Remember that a key to incentive motivation working is if the individual puts importance on the reward being received on the ultimate goal. So, not all incentives will motivate people in the same way. According to Stephen L. Franzoi, “The value of an incentive can change over time and in different situations.”[3]

How Does Incentive Motivation Differ from Other Types of Motivators?

Incentive motivation is just one type of motivating force that relies on external factors. While rewards are powerful tools in influencing behaviors, a few other options may be more aligned with who you are and what gets you moving toward your goals.

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Fear Motivation

In many ways, being motivated by fear is the very opposite of being motivated by incentives. Rather than pursuing some reward, it’s the avoidance of some consequence or painful punishment that sparks someone into action. For example, married couples may “forsake all others” not out of love or commitment but out of a fear that they may be “taken to the cleaners” by their spouses if their infidelities are revealed.

Another example wherein fear becomes the great motivator is one we’re hearing about more and more as we’re coming out of this pandemic—the fear of being poor. The fear of being poor has kept many people in jobs they hate. It’s only now that we see a reversal as headlines are shining a light on just how many workers are quitting and refusing to go back to the way things were.

Social Motivation

Human beings are social creatures. The desire to belong is a powerful motivator. This type of social motivation sparks one’s behavior in ways that, hopefully, result in an individual being accepted by a certain group or other individuals.

The rise of the Internet and the explosion of social media engagement has been both positive and negative in its power to motivate us to be included among what during our school days would be called “the cool kids” or “cliques” (jocks, nerds, artsy, gamers, etc.). We probably all have experienced at one time or another the feelings associated with “not being chosen”—whether to be on a team to play some game or as the winning candidate for some job or competition. Social rejection can make or break us.

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Before You Get Up and Go…

Know that, especially during these challenging times, it’s “normal” and very much “okay” to feel a lack of motivation. Know, too, that external motivators, such as those we’ve talked about in this article, can be great tools to get your spark back. We’ve only touched on a few here. There are many more—both external and internal.

Remember that these external motivators, such as incentive motivations, are only as powerful as the importance placed on the reward by the individual. It’s also important to note that if there isn’t an aligned internal motivation, the results will more than likely be short-lived.

For example, losing a certain amount of weight because you want to fit into some outfit you intend to wear at some public event may get you to where you want to be. But will it hold up after your party? Or will those pounds find their way back to you? If you want to be rewarded at work with that trip to the islands because you’ve topped the charts in sales and hustle to make your numbers, will you be motivated again and again for that same incentive? Or will you need more and more to stay motivated?

Viktor Frankl, the 20th-century psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is quoted as having said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” As important as external motivators like incentives may be in influencing behaviors, the key is always to align them with one’s internal “why”—only then will the results be long-lived.

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So, how might incentive motivation influence you and your behavior toward goals? Knowing your answer might keep you energized no matter what your journey and help to further your successes.

Featured photo credit: Atharva Tulsi via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Britannica: Incentive motivation
[2] National Governors Association: COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives
[3] verywellmind: The Incentive Theory of Motivation

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