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Employee Motivation: Cracking the Employment Engagement Secret

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Higher employee motivation means higher engagement. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, employee engagement is defined as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” In a recent survey, only 30% of workers are actively engaged. The old ways such as annual reviews, forced rankings, and outdated competencies no longer achieve results. 

The American workforce has more than 100 million full-time staff members. Furthermore, motivated and engaged workers make up only one-third of the workforce. 

What is Employee Motivation? 

The level of energy, commitment, and creativity an employee brings to the job is employee motivation. 

Since the start of the industrial revolution, business owners have searched for different ways to improve productivity. Theories of motivation and other studies led to an understanding of what drives workers to perform. They also help leaders understand reasons for decreased productivity.

How to Boost Employee Motivation

Studying different theories of motivation can help leaders understand the reasons for decreased productivity. Studying these theories may help you to improve your small business. You can also drive employee engagement, retain good workers, and increase productivity.

For example, Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation/Hygiene Theory, found through research that there are two main factors of motivation. He states that “What makes people happy is what they do or the way they’re used, and what makes people unhappy is the way they’re treated.” 

Also, according to the Gallup poll, businesses should switch from a culture of employee satisfaction surveys, which only measures things like how much workers like their perks and benefits to a “coaching culture”. It is important to train your leaders to coach their teams. 

How Does Motivation Affect Employee Performance?

Motivated workers increase productivity and customer service standards. Also, workers who do not like their job may only meet basic requirements. 

They may not be focusing on their current job. Instead, they may be actively looking for a new job. These workers just want to get through the day. Additionally, they are not making any extra effort, and this affects your bottom line as well. Have you ever had a job that you didn’t like? Think about why. 

According to Gallup, disengaged workers are leaving for these reasons:

  • Career growth opportunities
  • Pay and benefits
  • Manager or management
  • Company culture
  • Job Fit

As a small business, you may not be able to compete with pay and benefits, but you can compete or even do better than large companies in other ways. You have the ability to offer perks and streamline your policies better. 

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Are Your Employees Motivated and Engaged?

Motivated employees share new ideas in meetings for improvement. They also work overtime when a big project is due. They are actively looking for new ways to make their job or the business better. But most of all, they take ownership. They also want to improve your business, improve efficiency, and increase profits. 

Inspired employees will take on other duties to ensure the job is complete. Also, they tell everyone what a great job they have. Additionally, they may share posts on social media and show up to work early. These are the employees you want for your small business. They are excited about their jobs.

Surveys don’t necessarily ask the right questions. Many times, workers don’t feel like they can truthfully answer and fear giving honest responses.

How do you find out what your employees want? By asking them directly. Your employees want feedback. They also want to be able to give feedback in a way that prevents them from feeling like they will lose their job. Who in your business has this power to make an employee feel comfortable in an open and honest two-way communication without retaliation? 

What Factors Affect Employee Performance?

Let’s look at the factors listed above to determine why disengaged employees are leaving their jobs. 

Career Growth

Every person within your business should have an opportunity for advancement. If you do not offer this, your workers may eventually leave. Employees who are challenged don’t get bored. They also thrive on career growth. Even in a small business, you probably have a plan to grow. Talk to your staff members individually. Find out what they would like to do. Then discuss a succession plan together to make that happen.

Pay and Benefits

As a small business if you aren’t able to offer competitive pay and benefits, consider looking at your company perks. 

If you can’t pay them well, consider bonuses. If the business meets a certain dollar amount, maybe you could give bonuses? Also, think about talking to other small business owners in your networking groups. Do they have any ideas that work for them? 

Obviously, there are many ways you can motivate your employees. There are fun perks you can offer such as parties, contests, and ice cream socials. These aren’t the only ways to motivate them. However, by creating a calendar of fun events or making a list of ideas with employee input, you could find different, inexpensive ways to help drive motivation. This can also make work fun and increase employee engagement.

Also, think about offering work from home opportunities or flexible schedulingIf you have office employees, can some of their work be performed at home sometimes? If you have construction or landscaping employees, could you offer flexible scheduling for childcare needs? 

Whichever the case, find ways to implement flexible scheduling. Your workers will feel like they have options. It’s important, however, that you talk about your business needs as well. Also, implement a mobile time clock app for your small business so your employees can clock in or out anywhere. Additionally, this will allow you to create work schedules for your team. You can also assign employees to a specific worksite. 


Manager or Management

Strong leadership is crucial for employee motivation. There is a saying that states “A bad boss can take a good staff and destroy it, causing the best employees to flee and the remainder to lose all motivation.” No matter how much your job pays or how good the benefits are, if you have a bad boss you just want to leave. Take a strong look at those who work for you. Do you need to make changes?

By creating a strong leadership team, you create a safe and happy place for your employees. Great leaders hire great workers. They don’t avoid issues and they address problems. Also, great leaders care for their teams and want them to do well. 

Some other statistics from this Gallup poll:

  • 22% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization has a clear direction for the organization.
  • 15% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization makes them enthusiastic about the future.
  • 13% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.
  • 51% of U.S. employees say they are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings.

If your leaders are engaged, they inspire others to do great work. These leaders promote and encourage others, and they look for continuous improvement within the business. 

New managers should undergo management training before they lead others.

How Company Culture Shapes Employee Performance

Your company’s mission statement, your core values, your policies, and your goals showcase your company culture.

Company culture is how the business presents itself. It is your approach of how you handle employee, customer, and vendor relations. If your employees are also motivated and engaged, you probably have a positive company culture. Additionally, engaged employees want the business to succeed.

Job Fit

Do your employees work well where they are? Sometimes someone is not doing well in their current role but may excel in another role. What do they want to do? This is where coaching sessions help your workers. By implementing a great performance review system, you can find out where your employees will thrive. 

Drive open communication. You should schedule time to sit down with your employees. Find out what they want from an employer. Also, make changes to your performance review system. Make sure you also have daily coaching sessions with your team. Additionally, if you can get your employees to talk to you about their top concerns, then you are doing it right. 

Also, hire right the first time. If you are a small business, now is the time to ensure you are hiring great people from the start. Put the right people in the right roles. Ensure your new leaders are trained. Make sure YOU are also trained to become a great leader. 

What hiring systems do you have in place? Develop great job descriptions, interviewing techniques, and recruit well. If you have bad apples, get rid of them. What weaknesses does your business have? 

Final Thoughts on Employee Motivation

Gallup also asked workers to indicate how important certain attributes were when considering whether to leave their current job. They said they want a company that offers them:

  1. The ability to do what they do best
  2. Greater work-life balance
  3. Great stability and job security
  4. An increase in income
  5. The opportunity to work for a business with a great brand or reputation

What factors can you control and change in your business? It is important to match the right person with the right job. Hire and train good leaders.  If you have good leaders, they will help change your company for the better and ensure you have great business practices. 


Author: Kimberley Kay Travis

Kim Travis has over 20 years of experience in business, human resource management, and leadership roles. She has specialized knowledge in employment law, employee relations, recruiting, management consulting, small business growth, leadership development, workplace safety and health programs, and writing business content.


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