I was recently working with a client looking at the performance across a number of departments. As we were discussing some of the dynamics of work, one of them started complaining about their younger staff. “They just don’t want to work, in fact most of them are lazy.” I could hear his frustration as he remembered the ‘good old days’ when staff came to work because they wanted to be there and valued having a job.
The question that I asked caught him off guard, “When they first started the job were they lazy and not wanting to be there, or did they show up at the beginning motivated and excited to do a good job and make a difference?”
He did not take long to think about it and replied, “When they first started they were totally motivated and would go above and beyond to get the job done.” As I thought about his response, I asked him one simple question, “What did you do to them over time that made them lose their motivation and desire to make a difference?”
Too often I hear Managers complain about staff not living up to their expectations. Because the Managers set the tone for the entire team (and for the organisation as a whole) they often forget how important it is for them to set the tone and keep others learning, stretching and growing. Managers have the responsibility to create a culture that gives their staff a reason to come to work because they want to, not because they feel that they have to.
There are a range of touch-points and activities that Managers can do to keep things interesting, keep staff engaged and keep them motivated:
- Get Personal: 1 on 1. One of the best strategies is to make time to be ‘hands on’ with staff. This can be a planned activity or it can be spontaneous. Take the time to check in with them and ask them questions about their personal life and their interests (If I think about my mentors and some of the incredible conversations, many of them were unplanned). Don’t always make it about work, in fact the Managers that are the most admired are the ones that have a personal relationship with their people.
- Make Little Things Count. Look for the opportunities to identify and make small gestures of your appreciation for the efforts that your staff put in. This is about creating moments in time to recognise people. You can use plenty of gestures from making them a cup of tea, to leaving them a sticky note on their desk that says ‘thanks’ or provide them with kind words. Other gestures include bringing them their favourite type of chocolate or giving them a couple of movie tickets because you heard them talking about the new movie that has just been released that they want to see. These small gestures add up, because Managers can forget to make the effort to let their staff know they appreciate them.
- Create Shared Experiences. Another powerful way to keep your staff engaged and get them to want to come to work is to create shared experiences. This is identifying activities that you can do collectively that everyone will remember and bring everyone closer together. This can be travelling to another business to learn how they operate, having an excursion that builds a positive team environment or setting up a time for staff and their partners to gather to get to know one another and have some food together. I remember one company I worked for in the US had an annual staff picnic for all the staff and their families. It was the highlight of the year because all of the Managers were tasked with preparing and serving the food to their staff and families. They also had activities for children and staff team building events like the egg toss and colouring in competitions. This allowed staff to participate with their family in a fun environment (and allow their partners to meet the people that they spend most of their waking life working beside!) The good will and the buzz at the company lasted for weeks afterwards and always brought a smile to the staff.
Review your last week. Did you do something to give your staff a reason to come to work?
Did you actively find a way to connect with them in a meaningful way or did you get too busy with the ‘work’ at work. Remember when people show up for the first day in their new job they are motivated, your task as a Manager is to find ways to keep this enthusiasm occurring!
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