Do you find motivating employees to be a complex and time-consuming part of running your business? People can sometimes be unpredictable, and keeping them focused on the things that are important to the business can be challenging.
Motivation and demotivation are not opposite ends of a static spectrum. An employee can be motivated by some aspects of their job, but demotivated at the same time by others. Traditional Human Resources functions work to reduce de-motivators – levels of compensation/benefits, training and development, etc. – while motivators are often driven by the way direct management is conducted. All of these can be simplified for best effect.
Traditional Human Resource Functions
The number of tools available to help with traditional Human Resource functions is vast. Some of these functions lend themselves well to technology.
Motivating people starts with having the right people. There are many tools available to assist in finding the right employees. From LinkedIn (relationship management and networking) to marketplaces of talent such as Monster.com (for hiring) and Elance.com (for contract help), the number of tools for finding and contacting potential help is vast. Many of these allow sorting by skill sets, experience, education, and can provide references.
Compensation and Benefits
Not only are there many sources available online for benchmarking compensation rates and benefits packages (Economic Research Institute - erieri.com, PayScale – payscale.com, salary.com are but a few) but third-party payroll companies often offer help in developing components that work for a business’s needs.
Training / Development
Webinars and online courses are now standard consumption on many topics, some quite specialized. They are an inexpensive yet interactive way to bring specialized development into an organization without the expense of travel. There are a wide variety of options from online universities to software manufacturers who provide training resources like those available at microsoft.com.
When in-person training and coaching is needed, tools similar to those outlined above (see Recruiting) can be used to find coaches with the appropriate industry knowledge and skills to bring benefit to the organization.
Managing for Motivation
The keys to keeping employees motivated include:
- Reducing controls while maintaining accountability
- Giving responsibility around a unit of work or a company goal
- Granting authority over how employees do their jobs
- Providing new and more difficult work to tasks that are well known
- Allowing specialization and development of “expert” skills
Management policies, processes, and technologies that take autonomy / self-direction, responsibility, growth, recognition, and achievement into account win the day. Aligning the motivation of individuals with the company’s goals is crucial in making this work, and carefully applied technologies can assist in making this part of the company’s standard operations1.
A fundamental aspect of managing employees is setting expectations and reviewing performance against those expectations. Systems set up to automate and simplify this critical task can sometimes drive it to a “check the box” activity, causing it to lose much of its intended purpose. Translating the complexity of an employee’s efforts into a scoring system or easy-to-measure metric can cause employees to “work to the scoring system.” Exactly what is measured by the automated portion of the review system should be carefully considered and focused on fundamental job functions.
Development via Personal Interaction and Coaching
For more complex work, employees are motivated by developing stretch goals and new types of work that they have not handled before. Making progress in these areas must be measured more often and in a more collaborative way than tasks they know well already. Automation, then, would take the form of reminders, scheduling regular review points, and documenting current issues and progress.
There are many “collaboration” systems available that make it possible for people to contribute to efforts. Some are simple discussion forums, while others allow development of action plans, assignment of responsibilities, tracking of completion, and impact to dependencies. Examples include Wrike.com, Groupcamp.com and Huddle.com. The price of these systems is less in the cost of the software as it is in making sure that time spent by employees contributing is resulting in improvements and value. One advantage is that participation is often public, so recognition is built in.
Some such systems provide project management functionality, which by definition outlines clear areas of responsibility and goals for those participating. Used well, they provide a platform for autonomy, responsibility, recognition, and achievement.
Developing Systems for Motivation
It would be easy to assume that using some of the tools discussed will lead to higher levels of motivation. But like any tools, they must be adopted according to a larger strategy and with particular goals in mind. Different technologies can be introduced over time as they are absorbed into the fabric of the company, but having a roadmap with the overall goals clearly defined will allow such technologies to be configured and implemented in a way that will get the desired results.