By Robyn Bage
Managers and executives often ponder new ways to motivate employees to be more engaged in the workplace or more productive. I, too, have struggled to be creative and effective in motivating my staff. This is particularly difficult in our age diverse, multi-cultural, dual-gendered, and otherwise multi-faceted work environment.
Of course, the tried and true approaches still work in some businesses, such as performance bonuses, rewards for goal attainment, and spot bonuses. I am particularly fond of spot bonuses, because it forces managers to walk around noticing extraordinary performance. It is also as timely as you can get, in terms of matching the reward to the actual event you are rewarding. In addition, simple recognition, or acknowledgment of a job well done remains a very powerful motivational tool.
Over the past several months I’ve witnessed or heard about some pretty fantastic incentive programs: Spot bonuses of $1000. Keys to the company car. Use of the company luxury apartment in mid-town Manhattan. Jewelry. Ski trips. Cruises.
If you follow motivational theory (as applies to work settings) you know that in the long run, these very elaborate incentives are imperfect. People begin to work solely for the incentive, and not for any intrinsic reason. If the incentive disappears, so does the productivity. In the end, the longest lasting motivation comes from the job itself, or one’s personal satisfaction at a job well done. That being said, I imagine a cruise (or any of the other luxurious incentives) works well to motivate employees in the short-run. It is, alas, simply my imagination at work here. I don’t—nor have I ever—worked for an organization that could afford any of the above. If you work for a municipality, or for a nonprofit or educational organization, you probably haven’t either. We continue to struggle to devise the perfect motivational work environment.
Last week, my CFO had the idea to hold a Decorate A Door contest. The senior management team immediately connected to the idea, and the contest was launched. The agency would supply the decorating tools: Office supplies, construction and wrapping paper, stencils, etc. Nothing was elaborate, but more than sufficient alongside a hefty dose of ingenuity and elbow grease. Guess what happened? Infectious joyful laughter. Huge smiles. Energy. Teamwork. Planning. Extreme engagement. Job Satisfaction. Motivation. And the entire endeavor cost $50.
Sometimes, all it takes is showing your employees that they matter to you, and that you want them to have fun and enjoy their work. My holiday wish for you is that your employees know this. May the season bring your organization a healthy bottom line, great joy, employee engagement, and a productive, motivated workforce.