How to motivate your staff

May 8, 2022

We talk a lot at Gill & Hooper about maximising employee engagement, and the importance of celebrating your team’s effort. While we stand by the absolute necessity of recognising behaviour that meets, and even exceeds, business expectations, what about getting that buy-in from staff in the first place? How do we motivate employees to want to bring their best selves and maximum effort every day?

In this article, we dive in to three things you need to consider when it comes to getting the most out of your people.

1. Consistency is key

Ever worked in a business where you hear one message from one leader, then something completely different from another? Even if you’ve been fortunate to not have had that exact experience, our guess is that you can imagine the disharmony, confusion, and misalignment that it might breed in the workplace. All leaders being on the same page about everything from the vision of the organisation to behavioural non-negotiables, is central to motivating staff to move in the right direction.

Equally, as important as the outward messaging is, actions speak louder than words, and there are few things that inspire more confidence in a common aim than leaders showing up, day in, day out, in direct pursuit of the organisational goal.

We don’t just mean showing up physically; we’re talking living and breathing the values that you hope to inspire in your staff – from respect, to approachability, to giving your best effort every single day; your people will observe your actions and emulate them.

In short, there’s nothing more powerful that you as a leader can do to inspire your people to bring their best to work, than bringing your best self, every day.

2. The IKEA effect: the importance of buy-in

The IKEA effect is well documented, and is an important concept to consider when thinking about motivating staff. The IKEA effect refers to a bias that means people tend to value an object more if they make it themselves – like with DIY furniture.

If we extrapolate this to a business context, the core principle is clear: ensure your team understand the vision, let them contribute to it, shape it and be a part of the process and they will feel a sense of ownership and value that is ultimately self-motivating.

Jeff Haden, editor of Inc. Magazine, wrote on the value of the IKEA effect, and why emotionally intelligent leaders embrace the phenomenon, that ‘… we all care the most when something is "ours." We care the most when we feel we have the responsibility and authority to not just do what we're told, but to do what is right… Great leaders allow their employees to turn "have to" into "want to," because that transforms a job into something much more meaningful: an outward expression of each person's unique skills, talents, and experiences.’

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, Jeff!

3. Feedback

We’ve written before about the importance of empowering your team to challenge ideas, thoughts, and practices that they see in the course of their work, and how that in turn creates and nurtures a winning team culture.

Likewise for the purposes of building an environment in which motivated employees thrive, as a leader you need to be seeking feedback from your team genuinely and regularly, building meaningful mechanisms and spaces where speaking up and challenging ideas is both encouraged and rewarded.

A final note on this point; there is little more demotivating than encouraging employees to provide feedback and then not taking steps to act on that feedback. Be careful to not just ask for feedback, but to consider how you will respond to it in a way that values the contribution your people make.

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