Essential HR

Imagine a small company with one significant remote branch – large enough to be managed, but too small to warrant an Assistant Manager. The Manager of this branch was considered competent and with great potential, but he got bored and left to seek something more rewarding. The business owner was left with a big hole to fill and for a while had to put in significant extra hours.

I conduct numerous recruitment and exit interviews, so hear many stories about why staff leave jobs. One of the more common reasons is that they are no longer learning or being challenged or, in other words, they are not motivated by their job. In this follow-up to my article in the last issue of Canterbury Today on why you should retain staff, I focus on how to keep your staff motivated. It should go without saying that employee motivation is essential for good business outcomes. It increases work satisfaction and decreases absenteeism and turnover, so it’s key when wanting to keep top staff in play in your business.

Employee motivation is a topic that scholars continuously debate, but they agree on some effective strategies to increase employee motivation: variety; seeing the bigger picture; good feedback and autonomy. Below are some practical suggestions for increasing your employees’ motivation, keeping them happy in their work and thus promoting employee retention.

Make it interesting!

Variety: Make use of an employee’s range of skills and talents. The saying “variety is the spice of life” applies both in and out of work, as it assuages boredom and contributes to the overall meaning the individual gets from their work. Recognise the range of knowledge, abilities and interests of your employees and think – in what other ways could these be utilised by the employee at work? Even in a monotonous production line, you can vary tasks by rotating people through different stations. More commonly, you can generate interest by providing some unusual projects or involvement in a work group or committee.

Give them purpose!

Seeing the bigger picture: Keep your employees focused on why they are working – the bigger picture, and how their job fits within it. Do they know how they contribute to the overall purpose and company goals? An employee who can’t relate their efforts to the bigger picture can be extremely discouraged, and reduces effort and productivity. Consider a carpenter: if he sees his job as solely to hammer nails, the job gets dull. But if he thinks he is building a house, suddenly the tasks are more fulfilling – he sees himself as more useful and becomes more helpful as a result. The same is true for others – does a barista make coffee or provide a relaxing (and delicious!) customer experience? Is a shoe salesperson selling shoes or helping their customers look and feel great? This leads on to my next point…

Give them value!

Give (good) feedback: If an individual knows how well (or otherwise) they are performing, they are often encouraged to continue or improve. Without regular, detailed feedback, this is impossible. Feedback should be given not only on their standard of work, but also on the importance of their role in the company (both now and in the future), and their potential for growth. This sort of feedback builds their feeling of your commitment to them, their development and their growth. I am amazed how often I talk to people who say they never knew how much they were appreciated until they left, and then it’s too late!

Give them control!

Autonomy: Where possible, let go of a rein and let your employees get on with their work. Leaving your employees to work on their own creates a sense of responsibility and trust. Even more, give them authority – including financial – give them a budget to be accountable for … more than anything, this would have made the difference in my opening story.

The more you incorporate these factors into your business, the more you are likely to see an increase in your employees’ motivation and performance, thus increasing your retention of key staff. Staff will feel more meaning in what they do, and in their own importance, and you will see positive tangible and non-tangible outcomes in your business. Next issue I will focus on building commitment by treating them as individuals.