June 3, 2019

By: Ron Guest, Senior Partner, TwoGreySuits

When employees are highly motivated it shows in many ways. The opposite is also true.

Motivating employees is one of the things managers often struggle with. Managers can get so caught up in their own work and even though they know employee motivation is the key to increasing productivity, a growing to-do list and perceived or real lack of time keeps managers from spending the required time with direct reports.

Employee motivation has many drivers and all employees are different. There is also no guarantee that employees will become motivated or stay motivated, and as a result many managers consciously or even unconsciously believe their time is better spent doing their ‘own jobs’, and they leave employees to their own devices for days, weeks and even months and sometimes years on end.

The question running through managers minds often is – I can’t use my valuable time motivating employees when I don’t know if or when it will work.

Surprisingly, and ironically, the same managers that don’t invest in any ‘employee motivation’ time are the ones who could really benefit by motivating employees while also possibly delegating the same work which is keeping them so busy in their own jobs.

By being very honest about job performance feedback, having honest conversations and showing genuine care and concern for employee development you can set the foundation in place for improved employee motivation and stronger trust based relationships. As an example even when providing constructive feedback, employees often feel vulnerable or uncomfortable, but if they deep down know the feedback is accurate, some trust is being built, especially if the manager gives this feedback in a helping vs. demeaning way.

Being honest and building trust are the ways to develop strong relationships in the workplace. People truly need positive and constructive feedback on their job performance. If being honest with your employees is not a part of your communications style with your employees, they will struggle to gain that trust which is the cornerstone of strong relationships.

Here are the four basic steps the best managers take to motivate employees:

1. Get to really know your employees.
Every person is motivated by and interested in different things. People are also most likely at different points in their careers, so they need different things from their work to be motivated. To motivate your employees, you must first gain deep understandings of where they want to go in their careers.
Get to really know your employees, especially their goals, their stressors, what excites them and how they define success. Identify what is meaningful to your employees. Understand your employee’s perspectives & their hopes and dreams.
Knowing your employee’s spouses name or their children’s ages is not enough, you need to know/understand your employees more than that, know their dreams, disappointments, goals, motivators, fears, and the activities that build or drain their energy.

2. Present employees with challenges that leads them in the direction they want to be moving anyways, challenges that would be motivating to them.
When you understand this, you can give them with work tasks that need to be accomplished that tap into their own motivation. For example, if one of your employees wants to take on a leadership role in the community, ask them to lead a project or a set of meetings that they otherwise wouldn’t be asked.

3. Provide timely positive and constructive feedback.

Assigning tasks based on ambition is a great way to start, however motivation can fade away without proper feedback. You should give feedback on how employees are growing toward their ambitions and contributing to the organization. By giving timely feedback, you can recognize their success and continue motivating them to do even more.

4. Acknowledge employee success
Every long-term goal has smaller milestones along the journey. Managers should know what those milestones are and more importantly acknowledge/celebrate them.

Why wait, start now, everyone benefits!

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TwoGreySuits is a leading edge provider of on-line human resource management information, processes, tools and forms servicing the North American market. They have linked the HR practices associated with the key drivers of Employee Engagement in the form of an on-line training application for managers utilizing the vast amount of well-organized information on the website. They license their product to individual companies and Associations, Franchisors and Value-Added Resellers (VARS). Contact them at

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