Almost everyone who occupies a position of leadership must wonder at one time or another, exactly what can be done to enhance the phenomenon of employee motivation. Universally, this is a concern that sits in the top tier of management’s “To Do” lists. It occupies a conspicuous position along other such employee management standbys as loyalty, engagement and staff turnover and retention.
So what exactly are some of the methods and philosophies available to employ in the eternal pursuit of individual and group motivation? Although many theories and practices exist, from the simple and mundane “More Money”, to the intricate design of human psychology, we intend to concentrate on an idea that sometimes tends to be forgotten or ignored, but is effectively applicable to everyday work environments regardless of department within a company, or the industry in which that company operates.
Communication can be something so banal that its use and purpose becomes lost in the daily jungle of office or worksite banter and unending emails, both relevant and superfluous. Effective Communication however, is a policy that requires continual nurturing, effort, adjustment and education. It is a beast that can be efficiently harnessed to leadership’s plow, effectively sowing the seeds of many positive outcomes regarding staff attitude and behavior. One of these outcomes just happens to lead to into the conduit that results in positive employee motivation.
The Business Dictionary defines Effective Communication as “A two way information sharing process which involves one party sending a message that is easily understood by the receiving party.”
Effective communication then, as practiced by business managers facilitates information sharing between company employees that can substantially contribute to an organization’s overall success. A significant portion of said success can be attributed to applying effective communication in the pursuit of employee motivation.
Significant aspects of Effective Communication that result in enhanced employee motivation:
As the saying goes, “Honesty goes a long way towards fostering mutual respect.” When people understand that they are essentially being dealt with in an up front and honest manner, defensive attitudes and behavior that otherwise interfere with effective communication are lowered. When honesty is physically displayed by actions consistently following words – promises kept, problems solved, support provided – employees inherently understand that leaders are operating from a position of goodwill and trust is elevated. When trust and follow through becomes regularly evident in people’s everyday work environment, they become much more likely to return the same to those who have engendered positive emotion.
Positive feelings link directly to positive action and one of the methods used by staff to show their gratitude in being given honest support and trust is to apply themselves in an improved and more efficient manner to their work. This is in effect, motivation freely accepted and displayed by improved employee performance.
When effective communication is properly employed by leadership, it provides a vessel that helps to underscore an individual’s clarity of purpose. It may surprise many leaders, but when asked, a fair percentage of employees have difficulty giving a concise answer to the question “What is your role within the company?” Many have a vague idea of where they sit in the operation scheme of things, but fail to see how they actually contribute to overall business goals. Conversely, others may be aware of their immediate tasks and duties but have not been educated about what more they can do to go above and beyond normal expectations in order to stand out.
When communicated with congruently and clarity, people will begin to understand their personal role within an organization and recognize their worth to the whole. Consequently when empowered with information and knowledge that enables them to do more than the minimum requirements, they become empowered to display such positive characteristics such as initiative. Taking initiative in one’s daily work is an outstanding way to display professional motivation.
It goes without saying that every organization faces issues and difficulties that it must work through,from the company as a whole, to workgroups and down to the individual. When a culture of effective communication is encouraged in the workplace, challenges that may seem insurmountable to one person or group, become solvable when others are permitted to climb aboard and offer their take on the conundrum.
Effective communication opens the channels between peers, workgroups, departments and leadership, allowing for open discussion of difficult issues and the freedom for people to offer their thoughts and ideas on the matter without fear of ridicule or censure. When people feel empowered to participate in a debate and offer their two cents, they are displaying motivational behavior that is often dismissed by unenlightened management with the attitude that “hourly workers could not possibly have anything useful to contribute to the dilemma. They are out of their depth.”
Not many things encourage motivation more effectively than clearly communicating to the individual the potential rewards they stand to gain from improved performance. The trick with this practice, is the common truth that different people are motivated by different rewards. It is here that leadership must take an active role and deal with employees on an individual basis. While a raise in salary may indeed motivate one person to work more efficiently, another may display attraction to the reward of paid time off, increased vacation or the freedom to work remotely from home two days a week. The point is, that when leaders take the time to figure out what exactly motivates certain individuals, and then make the effort to effectively communicate with staff that they can expect exactly that type of reward in return for achieving expected outcomes at an elevated level, employees are much more likely to evidence heightened motivation resulting in improved job performance.
It is desirable for everyone within an organization to operate at their full potential with maximum effort. 100% output is arguably difficult to achieve on a daily basis month in and month out. However, when effective communication is employed properly by leadership, people will recognize the benefits inherent within the above four applicable operating principles and respond accordingly. In most cases, this response manifests itself in employee actions of palpably improved personal and professional motivation that benefits all stakeholders – fellow employees, customers, suppliers and investors.