Energize Your Organization


No matter what you do, it seems, your employees do only what's absolutely necessary to get along. You've handed out raises across the board year after year. You've been as generous as you can be with various incentives. Now you're at wits end. You ask in frustration, "What will it take to motivate my employees?"

The answer is not in the workers, but in your organization. Employee motivation is usually treated as a problem of the individual worker. Motivation programs and initiatives try to inspire employees to work harder, but they do nothing about the work conditions that continue to demotivate those same employees.

Discover the flaws in your organizational systems that are demotivating your employees and eliminate them. For example, if your reward systems reward speed over safety, then your employees aren't motivated to work safely. Eliminate unclear or conflicting expectations. And, at the same time, add elements that motivate your employees, such as delegating authority.

One of the best ways to motivate your employees is to break with tradition and reengineer processes. Motivating employees today means breaking away from the employee-as-cog tradition. Encourage employees to be active, think and take initiatives, and enjoy their work.

Keep your employees productively busy. In motivating organizations, employees should leave work feeling that they accomplished something worthwhile. Don't allow them to be passive. For example, instead of letting them wait for assignments, encourage them to use downtime to carry out self-improvement activities or ways to improve their jobs.

Your organizational system should encourage employees to have fun. For example, let them jazz up the physical environment with personal decorations. Part of encouraging fun is a offering a variety way of life, such as job sharing and temporary work assignments. And when you let employees make more choices in their work schedules, break times, and special projects, you'll find that productivity will go up.

Motivational production systems encourage self-measurement. Use performance measurement positively to encourage, facilitate, and guide, not control, punish, or find fault. Allow employees to measure their own performance. It's the surest way of showing that the system is there to help, not "get" them. This helps create a climate of appreciation. And well thought out expressions of appreciation are powerful motivators.

Traditional or "Industrial Age" organizations do all the planning while employees are simply asked to implement what management has planned. This separation between "thinkers" and "doers" is demotivating to non-management employees. We are now in the "Communication Age," where you need to involve all employees, from the executive suite to the shop floor, in both strategic and operational planning. This is a radical change from the past, and not easily accepted by management.

To effectively involve employees in planning you have to maximize opportunities for employee input and planning. Employees of today are more educated and knowledgeable than ever. They often have more knowledge about many aspects of their work than most supervisors. And they are often closer to the customer than the management is. But it is important to phase in employee involvement. Start them off as consultants and eventually involve them in complex strategic and operational planning.

Always involve employees in goal setting. Employees will be much more committed to goals set by themselves than by a supervisor. And never forget that employees have valuable ideas on the big questions: Who are our customers? What are our strengths? How can we improve our long-term performance?

You cannot successfully reengineer any processes in your organization without providing recognition for planning efforts. Let your employees know: "You are making a major contribution to the organization." Involving employees in planning shows the company's respect for their skills, encourages employees to increase their contributions to the company, and gives them an ownership stake in what they will be asked to do in the future. The "doers" will do things better than ever before.

In most employee-attitude surveys, one of the most common concerns employees have is a lack of communication. In fact, lack of communication is a root cause of the most common work demotivators, such as office politics, unclear expectations, unnecessary rules, and constant change. How employees perceive, and feel about, communication in their organization plays a large part in the motivational climate. Communication done right, therefore, is one of management's key motivational tools.

When you're on an airplane and it encounters turbulence, or if the flight is delayed, you want to know why. Not knowing the whole story makes you nervous. Employees also want to know what is causing the bumpy rides in the organization. What people don't understand, they often perceive as a threat.

If your employees can't find out what they want to know from you, they'll start looking elsewhere. That's why every organization has a grapevine or rumor mill to compensate for lack of information. But you will defeat the rumor mills and remove perceived threats to employees by communicating as openly as possible.

If you truly want to energize your organization you need to communicate virtually everything to your employees. Employees want to be, and should be, aware of the company's strategy, goals, sales, costs, profit and loss. These things need to be communicated frequently, and promptly. If something of importance happens, don't wait to tell employees. They'll hear about it through the grapevine, will wonder why they weren't told, and start to distrust your communication.

Make a point of sharing the good news. When something good happens in a particular area, let the entire organization know about it. Employees will be excited about working in a company where so many positive things are happening. But don't just communicate the good news. Employees know that the news is not always good. They will assume that you are keeping the bad news to just a select few if they never hear about it. And once again, they'll loose trust.

One-way communication sends an extremely demotivating message. It tells employees that their input is not valued or important. Just proclaiming that management's "door is always open" is not enough. Management must convince employees that they are truly interested in employee feedback.

You should schedule regular meetings in which senior executives sit down with employees in all areas of the company to discuss employee ideas and concerns. When you do this it is always a good idea to draft agendas for these meetings with input from employee participants. This will give employees more ownership in the meeting.

Establishing a Performance Development Process is one of the best ways to motivate employees and really energize your organization. Performance appraisal is often demotivating because appraisals are linked to compensation concerns, and sometimes to disciplinary measures. Even employees that generally perform well will be defensive and fearful about any negative feedback they receive.

The purpose of appraisals is to encourage development, not focus on compensation or discipline. A Performance Development Process reflects an emphasis on development over reward and punishment. By including the word "process," you are sending the message that performance appraisal is a continuous exercise and not just a year-end tally.

A Performance Development Process consists of four steps:

1. Performance planning. Employees and their supervisors meet at the beginning of each performance period to discuss expectations.

2. Regular feedback. Employees receive ongoing, informal feedback on a daily basis if possible, on a weekly basis at minimum.

3. Interim reviews. Employees shouldn't have to wait for the end of the year for comprehensive feedback. Interim reviews (weekly, monthly, or quarterly) remove many of the negatives associated with one-shot annual reviews.

4. Annual reviews. This should be a simple summary of previous reviews.

Any motivation program, such as an inspiring speaker, can create an instant surge of motivation. But it soon dissipates. By identifying and eliminating demotivators and establishing open and positive communication with your employees, you will create a work structure that naturally leads employees to be, and remain, motivated.

Copyrightę 2005 by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and achieve total success. He is the founder and CEO of JLM & Associates, a consulting and training organization, specializing in personal and business development. Through his seminars and lectures, Joe Love addresses thousands of men and women each year, including the executives and staffs of many of America's largest corporations, on the subjects of leadership, self-esteem, goals, achievement, and success psychology.

Reach Joe at: joe@jlmandassociates.com

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