The Number Five Motivator – “My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person”

We all like to feel that we’re doing something worthwhile, that what we do is important and that we’d be missed if we weren’t there.

But at work it’s sometimes easy to feel that we’re a small cog in a very big machine; that our efforts are insignificant and go unnoticed. Ultimately this might lead us to feel that it’s not worth making an effort, and hence we can become disinterested and demotivated.

One of the challenges for every leader – at all levels in the organisation – is to treat everyone fairly and equally, whilst at the same time treating each person as an individual. It’s helpful to get to know each person, and to find out “what makes them tick”. We don’t expect to delve into every aspect of our employee’s personal lives but it can be helpful if we have an idea of what else is going on in their world, particularly if we can celebrate some successes and help them over the odd bump in the road. Having an idea of – and perhaps recognising in the workplace – key events like Birthdays – can also help. And where we can, taking a long-term view and helping folk to balance the rewards and challenges of work and home increases employees’ sense of security and welfare, which is good for them and good for the organisation.

Acknowledging people every time that you see them is also incredibly simple but very important. Even if it’s a simple nod of the head and a “hello there” or “good morning”. Better still if you get to know everyone’s names. If you’re the senior leader in the organisation, it’s incredibly powerful – and well appreciated – if you can do this. I’ve known examples of business leaders, head teachers and politicians who make a point of learning every one of hundreds – or even thousands – of names. Try it!

The Number Four Motivator – “In the last 7 days I have received recognition or praise for doing good work”

The vast majority of people like to do a job well, and they like to be recognised when they’ve done a good job.

Unfortunately it’s too easy to overlook this important act – we might feel that “they get paid for it so why do they need thanking as well”, or we might not feel comfortable giving praise and recognition.

Here are a few ways to make sure that we recognise people’s efforts effectively:

The recognition has to be appropriate for the individuals concerned. Some people would love to receive an award from the Chief Exec on stage in front of an audience of thousands. Other people would be horrified at the very thought of such a public display. Make sure that the type of recognition will be appreciated by the individual(s) concerned. The same rules apply as for a gift – show that you know the individual and that you know what they would value.

The recognition has to be genuine. You need to understand exactly what the good job was, and why it deserves recognition. And don’t overdo it, or do it automatically. A routine, unthinking “thank you” every day becomes meaningless – like the dreaded “Have a nice day!” that’s churned out automatically.

And finally – particularly when you want to recognise the efforts of a team rather than an individual – get creative and make it fun!

The Number Three Motivator – “At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day”

Most of us have experienced the enjoyment of doing easily something that we’re good at. And most of us know how frustrating it can be to keep on trying things that we struggle to do well or to do at all. But from a management point of view, we often want people to be flexible / multi-skilled, and we often want people to learn new skills. So how can we achive these objectives and still keep people motivated? Here are some thoughts:

Allow for the “learning curve”. When we learn we often take a while to get the hang of a new skill, and sometimes we make mistakes along the way. Managers and leaders need to make reasonable allowances for this – provide extra time and try to correct or prevent errors as quickly as possible. We also need to make sure that learners adopt the “One Best Way” and not pick up bad habits from other employees.

Catch people doing things right! Look for opportunities to give positive feedback, rather than only focusing on what needs to be done better. Try to “sandwich” each slice of negative feedback between at least two “slices” of positive feedback.

We often focus on people’s weaknesses / things that they find difficult, and we try to get them to do these things better. But don’t neglect the opportunity to help people improve the things that they’re already good at. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to go from “good” to “outstanding” than it is from “acceptable” to “good”.

Make learning fun – create some friendly competition, publish a league table, recognise and reward improvements, get your most epxerienced folk to run some “this is what effortless skill looks like” demos.

Be honest, keep it fair and lead by example. Balance the easy tasks and the difficult tasks, and spread them out  fairly. Make clear that we all have to do things that we don’t like or that we struggle with, and show people that that’s what you do every day, because even you are not quite perfect yet!

The Number Two Motivator – “I have the tools and equipment I need to do my job right”

People want to do the job right and they expect to be provided with the right equipment so that they can do just that.

Sadly this is still a real wake-up call for some manufacturing owners and managers. Here’s my advice:

Tools that aren’t easy to handle and clothing or PPE that’s uncomfortable become a real problem after a 8- , 10- or 12-hour shift. If you’re serious about quality and serious about treating employees well, invest in good quality gear – go for good value not just the cheapest. Would you want to wear those cheap nasty safety shoes day after day, week after week?

BYOT (Bring Your Own Tools). Get with it folks – this is the 21st Century not the 19th! Do you really expect your people to buy and bring their own tools to work? How do you control the quality? What if a tool fails and injures someone? What about sharing tools? What about 5S shadow boards? What about theft and “borrowing”? In my view, employers need to supply all of the right kit to do the right job to the right standard. Period.