as seen in the Conway Daily Sun
At the top of my list of frequently asked questions from employers: What do you have to do to motivate employees?
My short answer: Care. My long answer will be the upcoming book “Giving Away the Store”. Meanwhile, here are a few thoughts to get us started. To say you could “give away the store” and still not have motivated employees may be true – or not. Have you read any studies or statistics about employees motivated by having a store given to them? Me either. Have you tried it? I have and like a reality TV show, we’ve had our share of ups, downs, high drama and surprises through a number of failed attempts and one success over the years, but more about that later.
We have an overwhelming amount of data that proves money is sometimes the answer and sometimes not. A major 2013 Human Resources survey shows the top issues that contribute most to job satisfaction are (in order of most popular answers), pay, the ability to use skills, job security, relationship with immediate supervisor, overall benefits package, employer’s financial stability, and finally in 8th place, is the work itself. This proves everything and nothing. First, let us dig into some details – pay is much more important to hourly wage employees, and does not even rank in the top 5 answers for executives. Wages ranked much lower just 5 years ago. Changes in the survey results in recent years seem to reflect the lack of raises seen by hourly wage workers. We should also keep in mind that surveys show the results of groups of people – not the individual, real people we have working for us. The survey shows that pay was the most important topic for 60% of respondents, but all the top 8 topics listed above were rated as very important by over 50% of respondents, so all these topics are very important and any one of them could easily impact turnover, productivity and engagement either positively or negatively. With so many factors ranking so similarly, we must accept that it is a package. All the pay in the world will not make someone like their immediate supervisor – it is often said that we take a job to work for a company, but we quit a job to quit working for a particular boss. Managers with high turnover would do well to ponder that as valuable feedback.
I hope we can agree that job satisfaction contributes to productivity, customer satisfaction, sales and service levels, turnover, and a wide variety of factors leading to your organizations ultimate success or failure. We know what contributes most to job satisfaction for most people. What resources do you have available to offer them? Do your employees have the opportunity to use their skills or are they micro-managed? Have you had a conversation with them about their skills and areas of interest? Not only is this a free benefit, chances are it will greatly benefit you. How is your relationship with your employees? How do your employees get along with their immediate supervisors? Are your messages about teamwork, communication and positivity actually reflected in reality or is it just lip service? Know that many business owners and managers are the last to know how their staff really feels about them. I have learned this myself, the hard way, so I know how easy it is to miss the signs. What about the work itself? Are people allowed to do work that is most interesting to them? Is there a fair mix of passion work balanced with some of the drudgery work that comes with most jobs? Most of us don’t do our best work if it’s all drudgery. Can you afford to pay above average wages? Before you answer, consider the cost of turnover, training, and low productivity. I am a big fan of raises and bonuses that are tied to some sort of productivity, so long as the plan is very carefully crafted to not create destructive unintended side effects. If you simply cannot afford higher wages, then make sure you excel in the other top areas we have just reviewed. You could give away the store and still not motivate employees if they do not have the whole package. I know, because I have been living through the real-world research of giving away the store.
How to create the whole package and how to know exactly what matters most to your own staff will involve some work on your part and some serious conversations with your staff. Are you ready to have such a conversation? What would that include and how would you start and end it to not cause more harm than good? How would you ask for and get truly honest feedback? These are actually complex nuances of communication that our team of "conversation experts” love to explore with clients. Contact us if you would like some help in this area. In our next article, we will talk about the real-world effort to give away the store and the lessons learned.