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Motivation and retention are inseparable. Employees want to feel useful and valued – a discernable part of your company’s big picture. When they do, they’re motivated to dig in and do their best. When they don’t feel like part of the team, they’re motivated to go elsewhere.

Like so much in business, success comes when top management walks the walk, leading by example. This is critical when it comes to influencing motivation, because you have to establish a culture of mutual trust. Trust is earned by actions, not by words in policy handbooks and memos. There are myriad steps managers at every level can take to foster a work environment.

Always remember that your people are people.

No matter what products or services you sell, your company wouldn’t exist without people. Your employees want to feel they’re being treated fairly and that they matter. Do that by providing:

  • Face-to-face interactions and human-sounding internal correspondence.
  • Flexibility in adhering to work schedules, company policies, etc. whenever possible. Today’s employees are happiest where they find minimal hierarchy and rigidity.
  • Promoting two-way feedback. That means delivering constructive criticism and coaching to employees and listening carefully to suggestions and, yes, complaints. Think of it as a partnership between management and staff.
  • Insisting on (and demonstrating) a positive atmosphere devoid of negative personal comments, gossip and other behaviors that corrode motivation.

Help employees connect with one another.

All work and no play … well, you get the idea. Your people spend a tremendous amount of time at work, so help them make the most of that. Hold social events from time to time, whether it’s Karaoke Friday, birthday celebrations or a semi-annual luncheon. Gather the gang to represent your company on a community volunteer project. Hold inter-departmental meetings to brainstorm from a wider perspective on a particularly challenging issue.

Support continuous improvement.

No one wants to stagnate in their job. And no employer wants people who shun learning.  Training opportunities enable employees to stay up-to-date in their line of work. Cross-training enables employees to understand how the rest of your company functions. Personal development opportunities enable employees to grow as individuals and expand their leadership skills. Teach coaching skills to promote mentoring and collaboration.

Sadly, studies show the majority of employers fall woefully short when it comes to supporting their employees’ career development. Yet you’d be hard pressed to find a better investment.

Set clear goals for individuals and teams.

Then keep everyone updated about how things are going. That applies not only to personal and team performance but to overall company performance. Good or not-so-good, you’re all in it together when it comes to company growth and profitability.

Recognize achievement.

A simple thank-you at the end of the day, calling out an individual in a meeting for their great idea and more formal forms of recognition all go a long way toward boosting employees’ self-esteem. Everyone appreciates a significant pay raise, but money isn’t everything when it comes to showing people you’re glad they work for you and not the competition. Never, ever allow managers to usurp credit due one of their team members.

You cannot hope to retain people who are indifferent about their job or your company. And, in reality, motivation comes from within. Good managers know that. Therefore, they take a holistic approach to feeding each employee’s “internal motivator” with plenty of information, recognition, training and support. That allows each person to blossom in their own way. When people are able to grow and contribute, retention just comes naturally.

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