There are countless books on best practices for employee motivation. An Amazon search yields more than 8,000 titles. Combined with lectures and journal articles, you could probably spend the next two years wading through all the information. Many of these writings were sound and offered excellent tools. I intentionally used the past tense “were” and “offered.” The game has changed.
As a result of the economic crisis that will create lasting changes, leaders need a fresh approach. How do we motivate and reinvigorate in 2010? The world is a different place. Five and 10-year plans have gone the way of the dinosaur. Everything is fast. Smart organizations must develop a culture to move just as quickly. The key to success in the new decade will be agility for organizations, managers and employees.
Talk to your people about the future. Create an environment that gives them a chance to brainstorm about new ideas and new thinking. Make these opportunities both formal and informal. You will be motivating staff to become part of the renewal, and at the same time leading your organization to develop innovative products and services and more efficient and effective internal processes.
The importance of agility. Agility is defined as the power to move quickly and easily. But agility is not a skill listed on many core competency charts or training seminar descriptions. In the company cafeteria, you aren’t likely to hear someone mumble “my boss said that I would have been promoted if only I had more agility.” We tend to associate agility with athletes. But think about a situation where agility is necessary for teams to win games: A third baseman must scoop a hard-hit ball out of the dirt, pivot, then reposition himself to throw the runner out. The new business climate is much the same.
In order to be successful in the new decade, organizations must react quickly, pivot, reposition and then act quickly again. In the business world, we have slightly more time to react than the third baseman, who has only a few seconds. But the same seamless process that leads to victory on the baseball field will also lead to victory on the job.
In order to react quickly and make better decisions, people need confidence. You can teach your teams to be agile and confident by making the company’s values and ethics clear, by investing in your people through training and by encouraging a culture of employee recognition.
Values and ethics enhance decision making. If employees understand what is most important, they don’t have to waste time trying to decide how to handle certain situations. Let’s say customer service is a top priority. A salesperson is in the middle of writing a report for senior leadership when the phone rings. Caller ID shows it’s one of her customers but not her biggest account. The senior leadership report is due in a few hours and there is a lot of work left to be done. She doesn’t need to ask a supervisor for guidance. She picks up the phone because she knows her company’s values. She is agile.
Invest in training for confidence. The world has changed, but people are still people. Show your team that they are valued. They will be motivated when your actions tell them they are viewed as important. This may sound very basic, but we often forget it, especially during stressful economic times. That’s when your people need encouragement and relevant feedback the most.
Communicating your investment in people is a critical starting point to build agility and increase morale. By offering training to your staff through Webinars and courses, you will increase their confidence and agility.
Increase praise to build morale. A recent national study asked employees and their managers to rate the best methods to motivate. Supervisors assumed “good wages” to be the top motivator, but employees ranked this category down in fifth place. What did they point to as the No. 1 motivator? “Full appreciation for work being done.”
Offer praise. Do it often (when deserved) and do it publicly. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and it doesn’t have to be connected to a prize. Every time you get the chance, point out things your team is doing that you would like to see more of. Offer training on motivation and feedback to all managers on the best ways to create a culture where employees are recognized.
The ability to react quickly, pivot, reposition and act again. Motivation for the new decade. It’s critical.
©2010, All rights reserved. Stuart R. Levine is chairman and chief executive of Stuart Levine & Associates, an international consulting and leadership development company.