As recruitment consultants we have a keen understanding of factors affecting motivation.
We all understand the benefits of a motivated workforce; increased productivity and creativity, reduced absenteeism and lower staff turnover. But what can be done to engender the often elusive motivation.
Sadly, across many industries there is still the belief that motivation can be paid for; primarily with salary and to a degree with benefits. Whilst it is clear that there is a case for a balanced and well thought out benefits package, more of which later, there is no doubt that motivation cannot simply be bought.
In other areas employees bemoan their lack of motivation and blame their employers. Whilst it may be the case that circumstances and management style have ground employees down, this kind of abdication of responsibility for their own future must not be condoned. Indeed employees bear an equal responsibility for their motivation to their employers.
Options for employers
Whilst it is true that many candidates find new roles with higher salaries, many others take a pay drop for a more rewarding role and the root causes of their moves are often little to do with salaries.
So what is it that causes staff to leave and what can employers do to help retain key staff. Every individual has their own reasons for moving on but the majority fall into one of the following :-
- Career development : We regularly see self motivated and talent staff change jobs for lower salaries in order gain particular experience or get into organisations with recognised career development opportunities. These people are so motivated they are willing to take a short-term step back in salary for longer-term benefits. Whilst more difficult in smaller companies most organisations can find special projects or secondments to provide development opportunities for their staff; providing the organisation with strength in depth and potential succession planning.
- Training and development : Allied to career development, in addition to improving skills, investing in staff development can sometimes account for more loyalty than a pay increase. Staff feel that their professional contribution is of value to the future development of the company. The latest trends in training mean that expensive off site courses are no longer the only alternative. A mixture of training methods from courses to videos and in-house workshops lead by managers or particularly skilled team members can prove very effective.
- Accountability : We find that employees who have accountability for their actions tend to be less inclined to leave. Accountability to customers is obviously important to employees who feel a responsibility to their customers on behalf of their employer feel they can make a difference and tend to be more committed.
- Communication : Under-pinning all of these factors communication is crucial. In the worst cases employees, especially remote sales people, feel the company does communicate the organisations objectives and performance effectively and more importantly where their individual contributions fit in to that. We often hear that people thought all was going well until they read that the company reported a massive downturn in sales or financial losses in the press.
- Benefits : A good benefits package attracts and helps to retain high quality staff. However recent studies have shown that staff at different stages in their career favour different benefits, for example younger staff may tend to favour cash rewards rather than pensions. Companies can overcome these discrepancies by developing flexible “pick and mix” benefit options. An example of this is a points based system where staff at different levels qualify for varying levels of points; these points can then be redeemed against their choice of benefits, typically from a selection including pension, healthcare, childcare, share options, bonuses etc
Employees must take control
No storming the barricades, but it is nonetheless clear that our own attitude to work has a great impact on both its ease and enjoyment.
We can all think of tasks we dreaded and put off and put off, only to find that once we actually got down to doing it, it was easy and flew by.
It is not simply that motivated people enjoy everything they do but that they approach even the less enjoyable tasks more positively. Whether it is a “sooner I start the sooner I finish” mentality or using other ways to find a way to gain enjoyment from the task; such as setting themselves mental targets.
A common area affecting motivation is that of career progression. The employees perspective on career development. Rather than wait for that golden opportunity to come and find them, employees should take steps to make themselves the most eligible candidate.
At whatever point in their career employees should be encouraged to take a proactive approach. They can start by thinking about the kind of role they would like to be in and consider the requirements, the knowledge, skills and experienced required for that type of position.
Once there is an understanding of the development needs they can plan to gain the knowledge or skills. There are many ways of learning so they may be surprised at how easy it is to gain access.
These include :-
- Short courses – these may be during the day or evenings and although they can be expensive you can usually get a basic understanding of a subject quickly.
- Formal accredited courses – these will usually involve the dreaded “night school”. Although potentially off-putting this is probably the best way of developing yourself. Over a longer period of time you have the chance to use the things you learn and check them out in the real world; this means you gain a much better understanding. Also the opportunity to share experience and discuss issues with others at a similar level gives you a much better perspective.
- Professional bodies – Most professional bodies have some form of qualifying course and exam. This may be useful but if it is more detailed than you require you will often find that the local branches of the bodies hold evening seminars, which can provide a valuable insight in specific areas at very low cost if not free of charge.
- Experience – another great way to learn is to volunteer for secondments or projects. You will gain experience of different areas of the business and usually will learn from others on the project also. In addition you will be seen as positive with a “can do” attitude.
There is no guarantee or magic wand to secure motivation. Clearly much of it is not directed towards salary or even career progression with accountability, communication and training featuring highly as factors. We should all be thankful of this, as it isn’t possible to promote everyone in to the highly paid jobs. However, whether employees or employers, we must all recognise the broad range of factors affecting motivation and take measures to ensure we reap their benefits.