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The question of how to motivate employees to perform better has puzzled managers and business owners for centuries. Even in 2018, it seems we haven’t gotten much better at answering it. Research by Gallup has shown that 85% of the global workforce feels disengaged in their current jobs. With numbers like that, it’s certain that countless organisations are suffering from an employee engagement problem and don’t even realise it.
The financial implications of employee disengagement are too major to be ignored. A single disengaged employee can cost a company about a third of their salary in lost productivity. To put that into perspective, on the whole, employee disengagement costs businesses over $400 billion per year in the US alone.
So what exactly can a business do to engage and motivate their staff?
The knee-jerk response might be cash. But it turns out that money isn’t as effective an incentiviser as you might think. True, financial rewards can work up to a point, but overall there’s no direct correlation between monetary rewards and engagement. In fact, the Incentive Research Foundation found that the best performing companies like Google and American Express are trending towards non-monetary incentives to engage and motivate their staff.
This isn’t just the polite thing to do. Thanking employees for their contributions has been shown to increase productivity by up to 50%. People who feel appreciated at work experience more job satisfaction as well. Gratitude is contagious. Thanking someone makes it more likely that they’ll go on to thank someone else — in effect creating a ripple effect of gratitude that will spread throughout the office.
In 2013 PwC began a comprehensive Global Generational Study of their global workforce. They found that the majority of the 40,000 employees surveyed would prefer to make their work hours more flexible. That goes for Millennials and non-Millennials alike. According to the study a good work/life balance is one of the driving factors in Millennial retention.
Around 15% of men and 21% of women surveyed would accept a smaller pay check in exchange for flexible hours.
Consider the fact that 6 million Americans choose to work part-time specifically so that they have enough time to tend to their personal lives and interests.
Something as small as a bunch of flowers or a gift voucher will do the trick. A small token of appreciation for a job well done goes a long way to making people feel noticed and valued. Even better — personalise the gift to suit that particular employee’s sensibilities. Think a notebook for a writer, or movie tickets for a cinephile. The possibilities are endless.
Offering your employees the opportunity for growth is a major indicator that you care about their personal and professional development. Retention is 34% higher in companies that show they care about their employees’ growth. Millennials in particular value learning and skills development, and will actively pursue positions where self-improvement is offered as part of the job.
It’s as simple as asking an employee what skills they want to develop and providing them with opportunities to develop these skills, such as internships, workshops, short courses or books.
A small office party is a nice break from what might be a monotonous routine. It’s refreshing. Celebrating individual birthdays, anniversaries and workplace wins gives everyone something to look forward to. The social aspect of an office gathering can’t be overlooked either. It helps to strengthen the group dynamic and encourage a sense of team-spirit.
There’s no need to wait for the next staff meeting, or quarterly newsletter. Recognise employee successes in real time by posting about them on the company’s Hi5 Wall of Fame, social media accounts & blog.
Public acknowledgement of individual or team achievements is a powerful tool.
Not only do co-workers have the opportunity to connect and comment on these with their own personal accounts, but also their friends, family and a sizeable audience of your company’s followers. You can also use this data to see who your top performers are (the results might surprise you!).
Have healthy snacks available so people don’t feel like they need to choose between working on an empty stomach or leaving the office to grab lunch. Make sure there are always hot beverages like coffee and tea on the shelf, for a quick pick-me-up.
Research by Staples Advantage found that 83% of employees felt that a well-stocked kitchen resulted in happier employees.
Remember, the company kitchen is more than just a place to eat, it’s a place to socialise, take a break and generally boost energy levels.
You might choose an employee who has achieved something particularly impressive, or just pick someone at random. Walk up to that person and invite them out to lunch. Have a conversation and get to know them. This is an easy and inexpensive way to show your staff that you notice and appreciate them on an individual level.
Reward someone who is performing particularly well with the rest of the day off, or a full paid vacation day. Another fun suggestion would be to give them a “day pass” to use whenever they want. Not only will an employee come back refreshed, and ready to work; others will be motivated to push a little harder for the opportunity to get the time-off prize.
It’s not just about top-down recognition — peer recognition plays a major part in employee job satisfaction. Peer recognition results in a more collaborative work environment, stronger sense of group cohesion, community and belonging and, employees who are constantly motivated to do good work. The possibilities are endless; encourage employees to practise recognition by giving each other Hi5's, thank you cards and notes, small tokens of appreciation, etc.