The biggest illusion when it comes to motivation is it will last forever. Employees start a new project, and they are excited and confident they will feel that power all the time. But after two weeks, the bubble puffs. Suddenly they feel tired and are not sure if taking the new project was a good idea. They blame themselves, saying things like, “How come I feel so powerless when I got this great job opportunity? I should always be happy, fresh, and ready for work."
What can I say? People are happy, fresh, and ready for work on their Instagram pictures, but the real world looks slightly different. We all have good and bad days, and managers need to learn how to achieve employee engagement to help them keep on going for the long haul.
I have a few ideas on why motivation diminishes after time and how managers, along with employees, can retain it.
When employees are not sure about their payment or job stability, they don’t feel secure about their jobs. Some companies offer jobs without written contracts and no benefits. They can fire employees at any given time. Employees who are supposed to be motivated by the fear of losing their job will have less energy and drive to complete daily tasks. It makes them focus on unrelated work things like gossip with co-workers and complaining about problems at home. As a result, they actually don’t work toward their goals.
According to Dr. Vander Elst an expert in organizational psychology: “Research indicates that job insecurity reduces both physical and mental health, increases burnout, reduces job satisfaction, and decreases work performance.”
It seems the best thing to do is to change the company’s policies when it comes to hiring people. If that’s not possible, managers need to seek alternatives in order to care for their employees well being at work. They need to learn how to communicate with recently hired staff frequently and realistically.
This communication needs to address the real worries of the workers. After all, insecure workers are not satisfied and are therefore less productive. But this can all be changed by an honest conversation which can cut off any employees' speculations about their future in the company.
Clear vision, clear goal
When I started to work at LiveChat, my job was to write articles on the company’s blog. At that time, I didn’t have any deadlines, so doing research, writing, editing, and coding took me so much time that I published one article in three weeks. As I developed my skills, I was able to do all these things a little faster, but I still had no deadline. Then after almost a year our content team decided that each of us will publish one article a week. We did like we said, but that wasn’t enough for us.
After a few months, we decided we wanted to reach 100,000 page visits a month on our blog. We gave ourselves six months to nail it. Even though it was a big number and hard to achieve, I had a clear goal and knew my challenges at the beginning of each week. That was the time I saw a shift in my mindset and motivation.
When I woke up, I wasn't thinking, “Whatever will be, will be.” I felt driven with more energy than ever, had clear goals in my mind, and knew what to do to achieve them. This feeling is precious.
Whatever job employees have, they need to set goal. This way they can feel motivated and know that their everyday tasks are not pointless but instead bring them closer to their goals. If managers don’t set goals, employees can easily set smaller goals for themselves.
One mistake managers commit is thinking everybody can be treated the same way. If Kathy can work in customer service after three days of training, for Peter three days of training is enough too. But what if Peter doesn’t have the experience Kathy has and he needs more time to figure things out? That’s what managers have to think about in every stage of the employee’s career. Companies where important things are left unsaid are unproductive, unpleasant, and eventually toxic.
The solution here is managers talking with employees personally. A good idea is to start conducting one on one meetings.
If you believe in freedom at work, you probably associate one on one meeting with your friend working in a corporation. I did too. But turns out real talk, face to face, in a one on one is the most effective form of communication. It doesn’t have to be a summary of the last half year of your work and criticism about your attitude toward your colleagues. It can be a meeting where a manager shows you their human face, and you can try to talk to them like you do with your colleagues from work.
By having regular meetings with employees, managers build trust and loyalty. One on ones are also the best way to provide employees with feedback. Simply letting them know directly how they are doing and what you expect from them moving forward.
Groove is a great example. Their team works remotely, so they don’t spend all day with each other. But a while ago they were in danger of jumping into a work culture where an employee is not taken care of enough. When he or she was having a bad day, was unhappy with their role, or when something went wrong, they hid it. So Alex Turnbull decided to do one on one meetings with his employees:
"We only talked briefly about what they were working on; the majority of each call was spent on how they’re feeling about Groove, the team, what challenges they saw us facing, how they felt about being a part of the team, and my performance as their CEO."
During one-on-ones, Alex asked his employees to be more open and honest about their feelings. That openness began to extend to Slack and the rest of their team communication. They began to have honest, substantive team discussions where people felt safe enough to voice their opinions. A safe and happy work environment through honest and open communication is a great base for keeping employee engagement and motivation.
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Don’t punish good failures
A good failure is a term used in Silicon Valley to describe a start-up or mature company initiative that, by most measures, is well planned, ran well, and was organized, yet for reasons beyond its control (like a change in the market) it fails. In other words, “good failures” occur when you play well but still lose. So, if a manager punishes these failures, you instill a fear of risk-taking in employees and stifle motivation and therefore creativity and innovation.
Here’s a playlist with five TED Talks on employee engagement, including how great leaders inspire us. I recommend it a lot.
Appreciation is the foundation of employee motivation. Employee appreciation is something managers forget sometimes. Maybe some of them believe that salary will do the job. Well, it used to. But today, money alone is not enough to make employees happy and engaged, or to keep them at all. Appreciation comes in many different ways and a paycheck is just one of them.
Harvard University has a recognition program for employees for “cultivating a culture of appreciation.” According to the program, appreciation comes in many forms. Here is some advice inspired by their program:
- Appreciate employees for what they did good—consistent appreciation is the key. The truth is even daily recognition is possible, for example in form of a few kind words accompanied by small rewards. These rewards, called micro-bonuses constantly stimulate employees motivation.
- Use specific phrases—once you decide to appreciate employees, do more than just telling them: “Good job!” Tell them how exactly they did good exactly. It means much more for employees, they will have this success in their mind working on their next task.
- Every employee responds differently to recognition. Some of them like public phrases while others feel embarrassed. Getting to know employees to know what works best for them is the key.
- Recognize everyone in the team. If you want the whole team to be motivated, you can’t only praise star performers. You need to find reasons to appreciate each employee for something.
Encourage personal projects
At LiveChat, there was a time when we made a Side Project Day once a month. For the whole day employees could put their everyday work aside and focus on their own projects regarding LiveChat. At the end of the day, they presented it to the rest of the team and some of the projects were continually developed.
We also allow people to follow their passions. People tend to be more engaged when they do something they love in their workplace. For example, Drego, our support hero, besides helping customers, also hosts LiveChat webinars. It’s an additional project that develops his interests and increases skills.
Encouraging people to find the project they love to work on is one of the best employee engagement ideas. It keeps them motivated and excited about their job. But to make it all work, these projects should be optional. You don’t want to force people to work on something they don’t want to, and, conversely, you want them to take their time on the work that is most meaningful.
Keeping employees engaged is no piece of cake because it requires knowing them and understanding how they work and what they want to accomplish. To manage that, employees need a good observation skill and regular communication with their employees. And that is sometimes hard to achieve being a manager. But as employees train their skills every day, managers can also learn how to motivate their workers, so both sides can work together towards their goals.
Olga Kolodynska is a Content Writer for LiveChat. She’s responsible for preparing articles and monthly newsletters. If she’s not working on her newest post, she’s probably hiking somewhere in the Polish mountains. You can read more of Olga’s articles on LiveChat Blog.