How to motivate your employees – core ideas 2013

Let’s face it. Motivating your employees is not exactly a science. And if you have been using the same motivational techniques for ages – it does not need you are doing the most effective job. Sometimes you even achieve the opposite and de-motivate you employees. Let’s take a fresh look at what really works.


Love – Make them happy

Happy employee is a productive employee (most of the time). Rephrase the question “How can I make you happy?” in any way you want, ask your employees and then listen for the answers and do what you can. It is that simple and often cost you nothing.

One of the easiest ways to do that – make sure that every achievement and effort they make is met with gratitude and reward.

Napoleon was cynical when handing out medals, he was saying “with such baubles, men are led”. But the truth is – such approach is very effective and it cost you very little. If you want your employees to value it – do not fake it and give it only when it is deserved.

Pay attention – Monitoring employees

Let kids roam free, spoil them rotten and they will be less happy than the kids with rules. You need to give your employees those rules. Use employee monitoring software that you employees can turn on and off themselves. Yes, you may have a backlash initially, but your position is simple: you pay for work – it is fair if they show you that work. The honest employees will embrace it. If others hesitate, tell them that they can pause monitoring any time they would want to attend to personal matters. Work is not always fun. If your employees spend more time on it – they will be more productive. No need to go overboard with it though. Figure out what amount of non-work activity you can tolerate and don’t bother workers who stay below it. Also make exceptions for the most valuable people in the company. It may be that it is worth paying for 8 hours when they visibly worked only 2 – it really depends on the work.

Be fair – Negative feedback is necessary

If it is the efficiency you are after, you have to give negative feedback when it is due (source: Freakonomics). It is not enough to give the rules – it is necessary to make sure you enforce them. You positive encouragement would mean something only when it is given for the true achievements and highlighted by the negative reinforcements when they deserved.


Be generous on positive and specific on negative feedback

There is a difference in delivering the positive and the negative feedback. It is OK to overdo and be generous on the positive feedback. Not just say: “Great report”, but “Great report, you are genius”. However with the negative feedback you have to be very specific, maybe even start with a positive generalization first, like “I really like the work you do here, but that report is not good”. Their self-image will be influenced heavily by the way you see them, so make sure your employees understand you value them and see the problem only as an exception – they will conform their behavior to meet your expectations.

It is easy to come up with an endless list of specific actions on how to motivate your employees. If you check them against the few core ideas we have just outlined (and it is a short list to keep in mind) – you will be more effective as a manager.

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