Bored of babbling about ROI? Fed up of finding procedural solutions to performance problems? If your business isn't working the way it should, the problem could be a lot simpler to solve than you think.
The route to real performance is sitting in front of you, typing on workstations and answering phone calls. If you want to see change in your organisation, the real question to ask is: How motivated are your staff?
It's important to recognise what kinds of needs your staff have. Different employees may be motivated by different things - and it's up to you as boss to find out who wants what.
If you did your homework in business school, you'll know that a guy called Abraham Maslow - a psychologist from New York - came up with a theory that has a big bearing on how you motivate your staff.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (in its simplest form) says people are motivated by a pyramid of things they have to have. They start at the bottom with basic stuff (food, drink, shelter) and get to the top when they're able to satisfy needs for fulfilment and development. But - and this is the key - you can't reach the summit if you haven't ticked off the simple things.
Understanding where on the pyramid of needs your employees are is key to motivating them properly. A worker who's not being paid enough, for example, can't get higher than the bottom rung because she's concerned about buying food and keeping a roof over her family's head.
Your job is to identify areas where workers are being barred from making the step up. If you can get everyone in your team to clamber to the top two tiers - self esteem and self fulfilment - you'll start to see real results - employees self-motivating in fulfilling roles.
A valid complaint is an opportunity to do something about your staff's working environment. And bosses who dismiss everything negative their workforce says will quickly become masters of a domain no-one wants to run.
Be proactive. Employees can be shy about expressing their opinions to the person who pays their salaries. Get into the habit of personally speaking to your workforce as often as you can, and encouraging them to approach you if they have grievances.
Remember not everything your employees say to you will be a complaint. The more you listen, the more you'll find out about your company. A vocal workforce is like a reporting tool, delivering useful data on how your strategies and processes really play out.
Listening is a vital skill in effective communication. It's our number one tip for making your employees feel valued and motivated, and it doesn't cost a penny. Get your ears on.
This is the big one for employers. When David Cameron called for Britain to give itself a pay rise, industries reacted in lots of interesting ways. One of the main emotions from employers seemed to be that becoming an “employer of choice” (Crown, London, an advertising and branding agency) involves more than how much is on an employee's pay check at the end of the month. Motivational thinkers tend to back this up - but that doesn't mean you can pay peanuts and not expect monkeys.
A realistic salary is vital for retaining talent, and it's not necessarily that expensive in the long run. In an article in Conference and Incentive Travel (March 2015), First Protocol MD Mark Riches points out that “if you lose someone it can cost £6-7k to replace them”.
That said, the culture of your organisation is key to hanging on to good people when you've got them. It's clear that money alone won't keep employees motivated if they hate their job. Have you done something to make your employees feel valued today?
If salaries are big talking-points for employees, recognition is what gets the workforce gossiping at the water cooler. Take good work for granted and only highlight times when people have done something wrong, and you run a real risk of devaluing your best capital.
You don't even have to thank your employees with lavish gestures. Forget gold watches and carriage clocks: the simplest tool for making people feel you value them is your mouth. Take time to seek out employees who are doing well, and tell them.
Incentive schemes can be a good way to motivate employees to work for thanks, and they don't have to involve money. Offering physical rewards, like a paid weekend away, is a great way to motivate sales - and company-wide recognition, with a staff party you've really put some effort into or a team away day, will make everyone feel like they're doing a good job.
According to payscale.com, “workers tend to feel as though their identity and personality must be left at home in the mornings”. Long term, that's bad for business.
If we believe we are recognised for who we are (Maslow again: “belonging” and “self-esteem” are the middle and penultimate stages in his pyramid of needs), we work better. This can be tricky for big companies, which often feel faceless - and small businesses too. Startups are usually so busy scrambling to make a budget work, no-one has time to think about anything beyond the nuts and bolts of survival.
A simple way to get your workers expressing their individuality (beyond desktops showing pictures of their kids): encourage work social events. A couple of beers after a hard day at the office is more than just a chance to unwind. It's an opportunity to discover things about the people you work with.
When you know your co-workers better, it's easier to play to their strengths when divvying up projects, and they're more likely to feel fulfilled too.
Corporate training days are a great way to get those personalities out in the open. There's nothing like seeing the boss covered in foam to break down a barrier or two. And when the folk who work in Accounts see the marketing team dressed in massive penguin suits, they become a lot more likely to interact well back in the office.
The business environment can be dehumanising. Bring back a little originality, and it'll go a long way for your bottom line.
What do you do to motivate your employees? Share your tips with our community on Facebook and Twitter.