There’s a lot of buzz and conversation happening around the importance of employee engagement to a successful organization. But I believe that engagement is an overused, or at least misused term. Engagement, to me, isn’t a process but rather an an end-state where your employees are “all in.”
Engaged employees work hard on today’s priorities, and when they believe what they do matters and know that you’re invested in them, they will stay with your business for the long term and help you solve the challenges of tomorrow. But getting to this state of engagement requires focusing on nurturing motivation.
The Value of a Motivated Worker
Simply put, motivated workers are more productive and efficient, and stretch themselves to do more. When employees are motivated, they get their work done faster and with greater levels of collaboration, creativity and commitment. A motivated workforce goes above and beyond to do what is in the best interest of the organization and, ultimately, the bottom line. So, what are ways you can truly motivate employees?
Set Clear Expectations and Goals, and Communicate Frequently
It’s a strange truth, but many employees simply don’t know what is expected of them at work. Workers are more motivated and engaged when they are given clear objectives, understand how they will be evaluated, and see how their efforts contribute to the bigger picture. Isn’t that what we all want anyway; to contribute to and be a part of something bigger than ourselves? When HR teams help create this clarity for our employees, they experience a greater “purposefulness” or “meaningfulness” which in turn contributes to motivation. So how do you ensure organizational alignment and foster this sense of meaningfulness?
One critical step that HR leaders can take is working with managers to increase the frequency of communication around performance and goals. When employees work with their managers to set goals, and then check in on progress on an ongoing basis rather than treating them as ‘set and forget,’ it can help improve employee motivation, elevate performance and benefit organizations overall. By increasing the frequency of conversations between managers and employees around progress towards goals, HR teams can take a huge step towards creating an effective performance management program for today’s workforce.
This ongoing endeavor isn’t easy. There is time and commitment involved, and it only works when managers and employees are both invested in open and ongoing dialog about goals and expectations. But the more often managers talk to their employees, the more motivation and performance increases within the workforce. Even quick, informal check-ins, or “managing in the moment” to address priorities or give feedback boosts an employee’s sense that someone is invested in them, and drives motivation.
Spend Time Talking About Career Development
Motivation is tied to a future outlook. One critical way to boost motivation is to move away from ineffective, backwards looking annual performance reviews, and start coaching your managers around having more frequent conversations with their employees that focus on career development. By focusing on development, these conversations become more constructive, forward-looking, and connected to both personal and business objectives. Now you’ve motivated an employee, because you’re actually talking about their future and showing you are invested in them!
Implementing performance management processes that are rooted in continuous conversations that center on coaching and career development is vastly more effective for motivating the modern workforce. Focusing on ”performance development” rather than “performance review” shifts the conversation around the process to a more forward-looking, positive and employee-focused stance. This can have huge impact from an employee motivation perspective, rather than feeling like their managers are micromanaging them or questioning their work, workers feel invested in and motivated to get to the next level in their career, which translates to increases in employee performance.
Provide Timely and Relevant Feedback
Almost half of employees receive feedback from their managers only a few times a year or less. Not only do employees want clear expectations to be established, they also want to know how these are mapping to their larger career goals. Managers need to provide feedback in a timely manner to promote career development. Feedback can be tricky to deliver, and many don’t like delivering or receiving it. So managers need to normalize the feedback by making sure it is timely, and is relevant to the employee and their work.
There are many approaches to delivering feedback, but delivering all feedback all the time isn’t the right answer. Managers need to be thoughtful about evaluating all the feedback they receive about their employees, and select those items that are most relevant to the employee and those items that they are ready to hear, all in a timely manner to assist the employee in their career.
So, for many reasons, a quarterly review cadence, vs. an annual review, enables managers to align employees’ individual career goals with the organization’s top priorities, ensuring the employee has a sense of purpose and business goals are met. This is what motivating your workforce is all about. There is no silver bullet to motivate your workforce, however HR leaders and managers can make a big impact by having frequent and continuous conversations with employees that focus on career development, communicating clear expectations and providing timely feedback. It’s an ongoing process and won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on motivation, both employees and organization at large are better positioned for success.