Now more than ever, it’s time to motivate staff
The recent LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Survey which canvasses roughly 5,000 US workforce members every two weeks noted a six-point drop in the optimism that employees felt about their employer’s business. While there are concerns about inflation, LinkedIn writers note, there’s more to it than that.
Some employers have raised worker pay and others have provided added perks. These extras only go so far. LinkedIn quoted leadership coach, Sabrina Nawaz who wrote, “The single biggest motivational action managers can take is to remove barriers that inhibit employees from achieving their goals.”
We’ve long known that motivation is about more than just the money. Today’s worker dilemma means we should take note of other ways to motivate staff at a fundamental level. Neuroscience points to five brain “toggles” that can activate the brain’s threat or reward response. As a manager, you can intentionally choose to reduce threat and induce reward responses for your staff. That equals motivation. Let’s take a look.
Connection: We feel good when we feel connected. Research shows that those who feel connected at work are more trusting, collaborative, and empathetic. And yet, most workplaces have in-groups and out-groups. In-groups and out-groups can be managers and employees, in-office and remote workers, technical and non-technical staff, and more. Gender, ethnicity, and cultural differences can also create in-group/out-group dynamics. As a manager, what can you do to break down these dynamics? Who on your staff may need to feel more connected? Creating connection across the staff feels motivational.
Control: The brain loves to feel in control. Similarly, feelings of lost control or no control activate the threat response. You’ve probably had positions where you feel that you didn’t control your situation. It’s not motivating. Instead, what can you do to give away control? Can you delegate more of the work? Can you really let go of the work you already delegated? Can you give a staff member control of an additional aspect of their work? Sure, you may need to check on them regularly until you’re confident in their skills, but you may find that your efforts are rewarded by a motivated employee.
Certainty: At a time when so much is uncertain, what can you do to create more certainty? Think about all you can stabilize in the workplace. To start, you can provide reliable, frequent, transparent communication. We think we need to have the “answers,” but it can be reassuring to share that there are no updates, that discussions are still in process, and that there aren’t any answers yet. We’ve been told “no news is good news” but “no news” is just no news. In the absence of information, the brain typically defaults to a negative narrative. That’s because the brain is designed to notice potential threats to keep you safe. “No news” registers as a threat. How can you provide more information, create more stability in work assignments, stabilize shifts, or do anything that reduces uncertainty?
Consistency: In this context, consistency means being treated consistently when compared to others. It is about fairness. The brain craves fairness. Unfairness at work may be an unfair process or unfair outcome. What in your workplace could be perceived as unfair? Is there a fair and equitable policy for working at home? For perks? For training? Few behaviors demotivate like feeling you are unfairly treated.
Clout: Clout is about feeling our work is important and that we are important. How are you communicating the value of each employee’s work? Do you tell them how their role fits into the bigger mission? Do you thank them for their efforts? Do you praise their skills? Also, are people doing work they care about? If you don’t know, ask them. While we can’t do the work we love all the time, there needs to be enough work that we care about to feel motivated. Talk with staff about the alignment of their work with their sources of satisfaction. Increasing that alignment can result in more productivity and more motivation.
Think about your world of work. What can you do beyond money to enhance motivation? It’s probably more than you may think.