July 4, 2017

A New Look at Motivating Employees

 |  By: Mike Opperman

Motivating employees is pretty simple. You put the carrot and stick method to good use—encourage and reward good work and penalize for bad work. Often this method is used to measure against compliance toward a certain protocol, designed to elicit greater efficiency or productivity.

Perhaps there is a better way to motivate employees rather than just working toward compliance of a certain task. Lisa Lai, a consultant and coach to some of the most successful leaders and companies, says in a Harvard Business Review article that there is a better way to motivate employees. “I’d like to suggest a new dialogue that embraces the key concept that motivation is less about employees doing great work and more about employees feeling great about their work.”

Here’s how Lai suggests accomplishing this new way to motivate:

  • Share context and provide relevance. “There is no stronger motivation for employees that an understanding that their work matters and is relevant to someone or something other than a financial statement,” Lai says. Start by sharing with them the context of why the work is to be done and how it helps the dairy and the people who benefit from the food they help produce. “Employees are motivated when their work has relevance,” Lai says.
  • Anticipate roadblocks to enable progress. Be proactive in identifying any roadblocks or challenges employees might face that would impede their progress toward achieving a goal. Lai says this helps employees stay motivated to make progress without interruption or undue burdens.
  • Recognize contributions and show appreciation. Carrots and sticks aren’t necessary for sustained motivation, Lai says. “Far more powerful is your commitment to recognizing and acknowledging contributions so that employees feel appreciated and valued,” she says.
  • Check in to assess your own motivation. What if you do all of the above but you still struggle to motivate your teams? Lai says to assess your own motivation. “Employees are very attuned to whether leaders have a genuine connection to the work,” she says. “If you’re not engaged and enthusiastic about your company, your team or the work you do, it’s unlikely that you’ll be a great motivator of others.”

Lai reiterated the bottom line: “Don’t rely on outdated methods and tricks to motivate employees,” she says. “Talk with your team about the relevance of the work they do every day.”