By Mike Jones, Better Happy Founder
Motivating the employees in your business is more important now than it's ever been before, it's also more challenging.
It's more important for two major reasons:
In the UK there are a wide range of jobs available - if you can't motivate your people they'll leave
Modern businesses are constantly and quickly changing - they need motivated employees to support this
In the not-so-distant past - when many of our widely accepted business and management processes were being developed - jobs were scarce and mainly repetitive manual labour.
When jobs are scarce employee motivation becomes less important from a retention perspective. As there is a lack of jobs people employees were unlikely to leave regardless of how motivating they found their work. Chances are they found just the fact of having a job motivating enough.
When a job requires an employee to do simple, physical repetitive tasks, again motivation levels - commonly referred to today as employee engagement - aren't overly important. If my job is to sit all day and move the thing from position A to position B, I can do that to the standard required even if I'm miserable.
Today, employee turnover costs British businesses billions of pounds. Today British businesses need motivated and therefore innovative employees that drive continuous improvement. But Gallups latest state of the global workforce report estimates that only 9% of UK employees are engaged - an almost like-for-like term for motivation.
From my insights and experience working with thousands of professionals across a range of businesses, I recognise two major issues we need to address when it comes to employee motivation.
Businesses, leaders and managers are still trying to utilise dated processes developed during the industrial revolution to get people doing repetitive tasks - not drive high motivation
Individuals don't know how to sustain their own motivation levels in the modern world.
The data tell us that motivation matters. A company in the top quartile of employee motivation vs a similar company in the bottom quartile enjoys: 65% less staff turnover, 22% increased productivity, 10% higher customer ratings and 20% higher profits.
One of the key objectives in almost any business is to make more money. Taking a moment to understand the above statistics might lead you to realise that taking the time to improve employee motivation levels might be one of the most profitable things you can do.
Here are 5 ways to sustain employee motivation in 2022
1 - Provide Personalised development
What did LinkedIn's 2022 global talent trends report find to be the number one area to invest in to improve company culture - as voted by hundreds of thousands of employees? Development.
This trumped - by a minimum of 10% - 'flexible work support' and 'mental health and wellness support'. Spending a few minutes on the internet might lead us to believe that the best way to motivate our employees is three-day work weeks and meditation lessons, but this data doesn't agree. This data tells us that more than that, people want to be developed.
When you help people develop themselves both personally and professionally - because personal development underpins professional development - they love you.
There is a simple way to summarise a relationship that sustains motivation. Both parties - in this case, the employee and the business - are committed to helping the other grow and achieve their goals. It's really as simple as that. Unfortunately in the UK by and large businesses aren't doing a great job of maintaining their role in that relationship.
As soon as your employees feel like their growth is not important to you or your business, their motivation will drop and they'll be open to or actively looking for work elsewhere.
A great way to standardise this in your business, as well as your development programmes, is to embed quarterly Personal Development Plans into all departments. These should include areas for personal as well as professional goals.
2 - Know Peoples' Strengths
If we want to be motivated we need to work in a way that motivates us. If we were to take an Olympic gold medalist shot putter and put her into the 1500m race how is she going to perform and feel? Chances are not very well in both cases. We now have an Olympic standard gold medalist athlete performing poorly and feeling not very good about themselves.
Why? Because they are not utilising their strengths.
When we utilise our strengths we produce better results, it feels easier to do so and we feel good about ourselves. Gallup reports that when employees use their strengths daily they are 6x more likely to be motivated at work and 15x less likely to quit their jobs.
We're no longer talking about physical strengths here but mental strengths and working style strengths. But how many of us and how many of our employees are aware of their strengths? From my experience not many.
Unfortunately, this isn't surprising. Our schooling system isn't designed to help students discover and utilise their unique strengths. Our schooling system is designed to get kids to pass tests.
There are a few strengths profiling tools available online the most widely recognised being the Clifton Strengths Tool from Gallup.
3 - Know Peoples Motivators
Perhaps this should be at the top of the list! You and your people knowing your unique motivators is - almost obviously - a very effective way to sustain high levels of motivation.
The key realisation here is that - just like strengths - we each have different motivators. The things that drive and motivate you might be different to the things that drive and motivate your teams.
This is an important understanding especially for business leaders or owners because their motivations are often completely different to the motivations of their people.
We could take two almost identical people who have recently graduated from a prestigious university with a master's in advanced mathematics. One of those people might take a well-paid job at GCHQ in Cheltenham, the other might choose to work for a software start-up. Why take such different jobs? Because, like all of us, they have different personal motivations. Perhaps one is more motivated by money, status and fame/recognition. Perhaps the other is more driven by growth and being part of a team.
When we know what motivates us we know what drives us. There is a fantastic tool we utilise called MoJo that enables teams not only to profile motivation but also to track it throughout the year.
4 - Engagement workshops
For the reasons highlighted at the beginning of this article, I believe that measuring and tracking engagement/motivation in businesses will become the norm just like running accounts. Whilst many businesses aren't sure where to start with this and explore the many available different software solutions there is a more simple and effective way to get started.
Ask your people about their engagement. In 2008 a research project into employee engagement was funded by the UK government. This in-depth research found that companies with high engagement excelled in 4 key areas other companies did not. They have come to be known as the 4 key drivers of engagement and are:
Strategic Narrative - a clear vision & mission or story
Engaging Managers - as the name suggests
Employee Voice - employees feel listened to and involved
Integrity - company core values that are lived and breathed
Getting your teams together and asking them to score the company on each one of those key drivers then come up with 1-3 ways of improving your lowest scoring area is gold.
Going through the process shows your employees that you are listening to them and value their input. It will also provide you or your managers with valuable insights and answers to problems you can't from any consultant or website.
5 - OKR workshops
I've helped hundreds of managers/leaders/teams run the engagement workshop from the previous point. Regardless of business size or industry, one of the four areas is consistently the lowest. Can you guess what it is?
One of the key reasons that motivation drops amongst employees in businesses isn't that they're not interested in making the business better, but that they don't feel able to illicit the change required to make the business better.
It's like asking a child to help you solve a puzzle but then not letting them input their ideas, they'll soon become disinterested.
A great solution for this is implementing the Objectives Key Results - OKR - methodology into your business. Without getting lost in the details of OKR the basic principle of the process that leads to improved motivation and performance is leadership to create big picture objectives and then ask employees how they might achieve them. It shifts the narrative from leadership telling employees what to do to leaders asking employees what to do.
The OKR framework requires that each person or department set no more than 3-5 objectives aligned to the bigger picture. Each of those objectives has to have key results, which are measurable metrics attached to them - again no more than 3-5.
To reap the rewards of this process - high employee motivation & fantastic innovation - leadership should set yearly company-level OKRs and teams should set quarterly or monthly OKRs. Every quarter or month - depending on your type of business - managers should hold an OKR workshop with their people to review the last period and plan for the new one.
Imagine the improvements in your business or team if every quarter employees felt listened to, came up with ideas and planned for the next period. Not only will you experience exponential employee motivation improvements but business efficiency improvements also.
Employee motivation is quickly becoming one of the most important metrics for business success. As technology continues to change our world of work and business this is only set to increase. At Better Happy, we believe happy employees are the key to better businesses and a better world. We view happiness as a combination of health + motivation. When we can support our employees to be healthy and enjoy their work, everyone benefits.
If you'd like help implementing any of the above why not request a quick discovery call with us? We'll use this time to see if we're potentially a good fit and if so, subject to availability, explore supporting you to become a happy place to work.
Mike Jones Better Happy Founder
Mike founded Better Happy in 2018.
He now works with a variety of businesses ranging from small accountancies up to large organisations such as Travelodge on improving employee happiness. Mike's vision and the vision of Better Happy is 'Every employee happy, every business thriving'
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