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Do’s and Don’ts to Employee Motivation

August 29, 2016 | Julie Zurowski

We live in a ‘Do More with Less,’ fast-paced world, resulting in directors, project managers, business analysis leads, application leads, or even ourselves as team members, struggling to find ways to keep our team - and ourselves - motivated.  Everybody wants something done now – and done their way – which places a tremendous pressure on working teams.  How do you keep a team, or yourself, motivated to keep on going to the next opportunity, challenge or task?

First, understand what motivates your team members. Keep in mind, while there may be a team goal, each person may have different motivation factors.  Types of motivation include:

  • Achievement: the motivation to attain goals.  To some, this may be a promotion; to others, this may be a reward or recognition; or it may simply be an accomplishment, such as finding the solution to a tough coding problem.
  • Socialization: the motivation to accomplish a goal as a group or the sense of belonging.  Being part of the team that brings the software project to fruition on time, with high quality, and under budget is a driving motivation factor for team members not to let one another down.
  • Incentive: the motivation to obtain a reward when the job is done well.  This motivation technique provides a carrot, which may include a bonus, a gift, a raise, etc. for accomplishing the goal.  That carrot provides the correct incentive to get the job done.
  • Change: the motivation to be the influencer on change is very appealing to team members that want to be the movers and shakers of the organization.  These team members feel success by taking the organization from today’s state to the future state; being part of the team is the only motivation they need.

What are some easy ways to motivate your team?

  • Celebrate successes with the team and acknowledge the whole and/or the individual for work well done.
  • Give people a chance to grow and learn new skills
  • Recognize, reward and promote people based on their performance; deal with low and marginal performers so that they either improve or leave.
  • Provide employees with a sense of ownership in their work and their work environment.
  • Involve employees in decisions, especially as those decisions affect them.
  • Communicate on how the company (or project) makes and loses money, upcoming products and strategies for competing in the marketplace, and how the person fits into the overall plan.
  • Strive to create a work environment that is open, trusting and fun. Encourage new ideas and initiative.
  • Provide specific feedback about performance of the person, the department and the organization.
  • Be willing to take the time to meet with and listen to employees--as much as they need or want.
  • Personally thank team members for doing a good job--one on one, in writing, or both. Do it timely, often and sincerely.

What are de-motivators to avoid?

  • Over Control - Most employees are willing to be empowered, but few managers are willing to give them enough authority to be empowered.
  • Management Invisibility - Managers need to stay involved and be visible. Management has specific roles to play.
  • Unfairness - Keep fairness in mind when designing a program. Criteria for qualifying may differ in various parts of the organization. Keep track of disparities – and keep things fair.
  • Withholding Important Information Relevant to the Employee – This is simply lying by omission and is harmful to both the success of the employee and the overall organization.
  • Discouraging Responses - Negative and instantaneous responses to employees’ ideas and suggestions, such as “It won’t work,” “You can’t do that here” greatly affect employee motivation.
  • Hypocrisy - Do not say one thing and then do another. Be consistent.
  • Lack of Follow Up - Promise only what can be delivered. Deliver on all promises.
  • Unnecessary Rules - Keep programs simple. Too many rules mean too much bureaucracy.
  • Unclear Expectations - Employees need to understand what is expected of them, from both a project and company perspective, and the association of those expectations to a recognition program.
  • Organizational Politics - An environment in which the competition for power, influence, resources, and promotions is based on subjective or hidden criteria is detrimental to employee motivation.

The simple step to motivation is to be ready to coach and adjust.   As a coach, it does not mean doing everything your team wants; instead it is understanding the task at hand and utilizing your resources to the best of their ability.  Accept the world we live in by understanding what each team member (including yourself) brings to the table for experience and what motivates them.  Realize that the same motivators may have different meanings to different people. Be ready to accept and adjust to that fact.

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