Twelve Ways to Motivate Your Workers

Jun 26, 2000

When it comes to staffing your A/E/P or environmental consulting firm, it’s one thing to have all of your seats filled. It’s another thing to have those seats filled with people who are motivated— motivated to do the job right, do it fast, and enhance your firm’s reputation. No one would debate how important that is to the long-term success of your firm. If you feel your workers could be more motivated than they are, here are some things you probably need to do: Get rid of pointless titles. I can’t tell you how often we see firms cook up new titles to give people in an attempt to make them feel like they are getting somewhere. They just tack a “senior” onto an existing title and voila, the employee has advanced to a higher level position. But usually, it’s not hard for the recipient to see that no change in responsibilities means no real change in the job. I think you’re better off not doing this if you want motivated employees Eliminate bureaucracy. The typical firm in our business has too many meetings, too many committees, and too many layers of approval to go through if you are someone who really wants to work. Perceived bureaucracy is a big problem in our business. It’s our first thought when we see widespread motivation problems in a firm. Evaluate pay four times a year. Having more frequent pay reviews is one of the ways you can tell your people they are doing a good (or not-so-good) job. Once a year does not cut it in this job market. Sorry! Have a good business plan. You have to involve your people in the plan. It has to be real, and it has to be something that your best people can get behind. If the goal is simply “to make X% profit,” you won’t get your people fired up. Commit to revenue growth. No growth means no career path. That results in demotivation. Ramping up company growth goes a long way to stretching everyone. When everyone is super busy, morale goes up, and they can’t help but be motivated. Share information on the company. This means you have to give the good news and the bad news, all the time. When people are kept informed, they feel as if they are being treated with respect. That’s much more motivating than feeling as if top management thinks they are too stupid or untrustworthy to have access to the numbers. Buy needed tools and equipment. If you work on a computer all day, and it’s a dog, you will be demotivated. If you work in the field every day, and your truck is unreliable, you will be demotivated. But when you have good equipment, better than you could have on your own or better than you had at the last place you worked, it’s much more motivating. Talk to your workers every day. Mick Morrissey of our firm does a great job with this. He has the direct-dial phone numbers of all his direct reports stored in his cell phone. And he stays in touch constantly with his people, no matter where he is. Constantly talking with your people lets them know you care about them. That’s critical to motivation. Confront the morale busters. Morale busters are negative people who are always skeptical. In some cases, they are down on the company and can’t wait to get others to feel as bad as they do. These people need to be confronted immediately because they will drain the morale of those they work with. Enhance self-images. This is certainly one of the keys to motivation. But how do you do it? You don’t publicly demean people. You listen to them when they talk. You give them credit when they do something well. I also think it’s important to be trusting with things such as keys to the office building, provide company credit cards to those who need them, and give lots of accolades for the good things your people do on a daily basis. Set a good example. This is always important when it comes to morale. No one wants a boss who is a parasite. Be flexible and accommodating. This is more important than ever if you want to keep your staff motivation high. Flexibility in work hours, work arrangements, work location, and work assignment are all critical if you want to give people the jobs they really want. Because in this employment market, if you can’t accommodate their needs, some other firm certainly will. Originally published 6/26/2000.

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