Employees Returning from Vacation? Here are 6 Tactics to Keep Them Motivated at Work.
The end of summer can have a sad ring to it. For many business owners, it means time to get back to work and finish the year strong. It’s also is a time when your employees are returning from their vacations or a long weekend and would rather be outside than back on the job. It’s a time when motivation to put in that extra effort vs. taking a long lunch at the picnic tables, is sorely lacking. How can you as a business owner keep your employees motivated and on track? To answer this question, we have to ask ourselves:
Where does motivation come from? (Deep question, right?)
It’s a question that psychologists have been trying to answer for lifetimes. The human psyche is a complicated beast that differs completely from person to person. I was watching this TED talk by Dan Ariely and learned that while we are all unique people, we are more similar than you’d imagine. The main point about motivation that I picked up from this TED talk is: motivation does not stem from one simple place or tactic, but it comes from an ever-evolving set of instances.
Even though the depths of motivation are complicated to understand fully, there are a few general points that any business owner can set in motion and they can have long-lasting, positive effects on your employees… and your business.
In Ariely’s experiment, simply acknowledging the work people had done dramatically improved their motivation to continue working happily, no matter the circumstance.
“Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes.”
As a business owner, you know all too well that motivation has many factors and those factors can be different for each employee. In his conclusion, Ariely added motivation does not only equal money; motivation includes meaning, creation, challenge, ownership, identity, and pride.
So, how can you incorporate these factors into your company to keep your employees’ motivation high? Ask yourself the following questions:
How can I give my employees more meaning?
As a business owner, you may not realize how easy it can be to give meaning to an employee no matter their level in the company. Be transparent with your business goals and vision for the future. Employees want to be part of the bigger picture. If they understand where your goals are they will have a greater appreciation for their job, knowing the impact that their contributions make to the entire company.
As an employee of a relatively large company, you might think it’s difficult for me to relate my everyday contribution to the overall goal of the business. At OnDeck, the simplest gesture of handing out a postcard with the company’s yearly goals gives me a constant reminder of what I’m working toward every day. If it’s that easy for a large company to connect their employees to their overall mission, imagine how easy it can be for a small business to make sure their employees understand what they’re working toward.
Do I allow for individual creativity and creation?
Creativity soothes the soul. Many people often connect creativity with visuals, but even if you’re the “numbers” guy or gal in the office, being creative is an important part of your day to day. Creation is not limited to physically building something, but it includes any new thought from organizing spreadsheets to mapping out a new protocol. Creative problem solving is something you should encourage all your employees to do. Encourage your team to take chances and improve upon existing company standards, and you’ll give them something to feel excited about.
Years ago, I read the book Creative Confidence by brothers David and Tom Kelley (Founder and Head of Marketing respectively) of the innovation firm IDEO. (It’s still one of my favorite business books and I quote it often) The lesson I learned from the book is the importance of creativity in everyday tasks and how taking a new perspective can drastically improve the way a business runs. Don’t be afraid to give your employees the freedom to create, no matter their position. After all, allowing them to create something, increases their dedication to your business and their job.
Do my employees feel challenged?
We’ve all had those days where we’re stuck doing the most monotonous task. As a business owner you know those tasks need to be done. The problem, and why everyone (I think I can generalize here) hates doing them, is because we’re not using our brains. Challenging your employees on a regular basis is good for morale and motivation. Not every position requires extreme creativity, nor are they all incredibly challenging, but there are ways to create opportunities to challenge even the lowest level employee.
Some ideas that come to mind are in house contests. Coming up with a new slogan, or creating an opportunity to bring problems to light and work on solutions to improve them. I love the TV show Undercover Boss, because without fail, these executives are prompted by low-level employees to make changes the business owner would never have thought about, nor would the employees have had an opportunity to voice their ideas in any other circumstance.
How can I give my employees more ownership?
As a business owner, your motivation for coming to work every day and giving it your all is vastly different than the reason your employees come to work. Even if you have a great work atmosphere, their motives are different than yours for one simple reason – ownership. You have a vested interest in the success of the company, so working an extra hour or two doesn’t faze you. The only way to level the playing field is to give your employees a sense of ownership in their day to day.
Depending on the size and structure of your company ownership can mean different things. Some companies have the ability, and maybe the luxury, to give their employees an actual stake in the business in the form or stock options or profit sharing. If you’re business is like most small businesses, you’ll have to be more creative. Nevertheless, the feeling of ownership stems from your trust in your employees. Give your employees autonomy, let them make decisions about their work, and work on projects that they enjoy. These small tokens will alleviate your workload and give your employees what they need to give you everything they have, every day.
Do my employees feel a part of my company identity?
If you’re anything like my husband (who owns a local small business), your business is not a part of your identity. It is your identity. You eat, sleep, and breathe your business. (I’m sure you too have a very understanding spouse…as I pat myself on the back) You may even think about why your employees don’t seem to care as much as you do. (reality check: they never will)
But it’s not that hard and it doesn’t cost too much to help them feel like they are a part of your business. Go on group outings, volunteer together, create a sports team, give them a t-shirt with your logo on it. It’s human nature to want to be a part of a community. It’s up to you and your company leadership to make these small gestures a priority.
Do my employees feel proud to work for me?
If you get the above motivation factors down, this last issue of pride will be easy. Pride is not something you can give your employees, but if you accomplish the above 5 point correctly, pride will be a side benefit your employees will feel toward your company and their role within it. From the office admin to the marketing team, pride is what keeps people excited to come to work and do a great job. Every. Single. Day.
If your employees are proud of the company they work for, they will not have to think twice about coming to work, putting in all their effort and feeling accomplished at the end of each day. Pride in no way makes their jobs any easier, but it will make their jobs feel slightly less like “work, ” and they will feel more accomplished and fulfilled by the end of the day.
Motivation may come from within, in other words, it’s not always easy to motivate others, but if you show your employees that you genuinely care about them as individuals and give them opportunities to shine, you’ll have a much happier, motivated group coming to work for you.