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.

The Number One Motivator – “I know what is expected of me at work”

Expectations detemine outcomes, Expectations motivate us, Expectations keep us on track. So it’s no secret that the best organisations – and the most effective Leaders – are all over this.

So here are some simple tips – aimed here mainly at manufacturers.

Long-term: make sure everyone clearly undertands the common goals of the organisation and why you do what you do. Is there an answer to “Why am I here” and “What’s in it for me”?

Medium-term: spell out the three most important goals this year, this quarter. Back them up with SMART objectives for each and every team member (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timescaled).

Short-term: provide simple visual “target and actual” measures in each workplace. Every team member needs to see for themselves what’s required and how well they are doing. At the end of each shift / day / week every team member should know – without waiting to be told – how well they’ve done, and what they need to focus on next time.