What does it take to make employees give you their best? It’s pretty obvious that compensation and benefits are a huge factor, but money and health insurance don’t inspire and engage employees. It takes something more for them to give you their all and become a part of the company, not just another employee showing up for their paycheck.
In ancient times, it wasn’t hard to motivate workers. A ship’s captain, for example, could stick a crew below deck, chain each man’s hands to an oar, and start cracking the whip—literally. Chances are, the captain got where he wanted to go. Such techniques won’t likely pass muster with your crew today, and, even if they did, employee turnover rates would go through the roof. So, what’s a modern manager to do?
Make ’Em Teammates
Well, one option is to stick with the boating—minus the whips and chains, of course. Just last week, I took the Global team on a deep sea fishing trip. Not only was this a great way to spend a Friday, but it also gave them the chance to get to know each other (and me) outside of work. We had bets going around for who caught the biggest fish, Jen’s son was the victor – reeling in a 19 pound grouper, but mostly it was a way to break away from the office where presumptions about employees’ roles and abilities tend to be firmly entrenched.
Teambuilding foster’s collaboration among colleagues and imparts lessons that are applicable back at the office. I can’t tell you how many times I saw people helping each other out on the boat, whether it was grabbing some bait from the live well, baiting a hook or just holding someone steady as the boat rolled over the waves. But what I do know is that moral back at the office since the trip has been more positive and the team seems more unified. Those who participated in the trip talked about how nice it was to have management and employees doing something informal together.
The Need for Belonging
Humans have needs, and one of those needs is for belonging. We want to feel a part of something… to be included. Our association with others is a necessary part of our completeness. But if you look at our lives today, there is much separation, both in our neighborhoods and at work. Yet the need for affiliation is always present.
Perhaps this is why corporate celebrations and events tend to be valued. It’s the one opportunity to pull back and look at ourselves as this larger team of people who truly work together toward our common purpose.
Camaraderie boosts productivity—a notion supported by research dating back decades. When you give your employees a chance to bond, they will work more effectively as a team and their performance will improve. Our fishing trip broke down some barriers around the office, making everyone feel more comfortable within their work relationships.
Get ’Em Involved
On its own, a lofty mission might not be enough to motivate employees. Most people also want to know that their contributions toward that mission count for something. I have always given my employees a chance to come forth with their ideas, making them feel involved with what is going on around Global.
At Global, absenteeism and turnover rates are both very low. Most of my employees have been here for nearly 10 years and we all know Nelson, he’s been around since the beginning. I don’t attribute that all to them feeling a part of the company, but I know that it helps. When people are valued, listened to and involved, they enjoy coming to work.
Don’t show ’em the money
Some companies assume a little extra cash will do the trick. This may seem like a win-win proposition, but such programs often backfire. For one thing, the reward arrangement can lead to unexpected—and incredibly expensive—outcomes.
Incentive programs present other problems, too. Sometimes, they’re simply too tempting. You might find yourself in a situation where people are lying, cheating, and stealing to defraud employers out of cash awards. Incentive programs can also foster unproductive competition and resentment among colleagues.
Also, if rewards are based solely on an idea’s direct financial implications, there’s nothing driving employees to improve such outcomes as customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. You can’t measure the effects of most ideas. So, if your incentive system is linked to revenue, most of the best ideas get ignored.
The most powerful—and perhaps most surprising—argument against financial incentive programs is that money isn’t even an effective motivator. Yes, workers require payment, but their tendencies to perform at their highest levels are more likely influenced by the desire to do something based on the enjoyment or personal fulfillment that comes from completing a task. The problem with motivation that’s created by external factors, such as the promise of money—is that it makes a person feel controlled by an outside force rather than inspired from within.
It Just Makes Sense
I really don’t know why we struggle in work organizations with the notion that when people feel better about their workplace, when they feel a connection to it, when they enjoy their relationships with coworkers, and, once in a while, have an opportunity to step back and relish in their accomplishments, that this somehow isn’t “real business.”
We pay inordinate attention to the technical side of business, but little attention to the people side.
We need to recognize that these events and celebrations are not intrusions to the work, but, in fact, necessary ingredients in its performance. We can throw people together into any group, give them a mission, and have them produce a result. But if we expect that result to be extraordinary, and if we expect it to last over time, then we must pay homage to the spirit that resides within us. Those who do will win those who don’t… well, let’s just say that they will fall somewhat short of their potential.