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Motivating the Workforce

Posted by Lynn Schroeder

Topics: Workforce Development, Employee Engagement, Best Practices, Employee Incentives, Talent Management, Employee Motivation


Motivating_the_Workforce.jpgMotivation is an inner ambition. A desire to achieve a certain goal. Motivated people take the initiative, work hard to reach their goals, and remain enthusiastic along the way. When employees possess these characteristics — that is, when they are motivated — they tend to be more productive and happier in their jobs.

Therefore, many employers want to motivate their workforce - as motivated employees are assets that can help an organization achieve its goals.

Unfortunately, motivating employees is a particularly challenging task for most employers. Handled incorrectly, attempts at motivating the workforce can bring negative results. For example, some employers focus on increased productivity and forget that happy employees are far easier to retain than unhappy ones. Employers may attempt to motivate through threats, by creating a divisive atmosphere of competition among co-workers, or through negative feedback. None of these methods will achieve positive results for more than a short period of time — after which the employees are even less motivated.

A motivated workforce is more productive, helps a company achieve its goals and is crucial to reducing absenteeism and turnover. Even employers who are aware of these benefits sometimes believe that there are certain employees that they can never motivate. In a sense, that belief is true. Motivation cannot be forced. It is something that is internal in each individual.

But everyone is motivated by something, whether it is a need for approval, career growth, personal improvement or something else. The employer's task becomes to discover what motivates each employee, then support it. This may seem daunting, but it is easier than it appears at first glance. Here are some tips to motivate your workforce.

  1. Virtually all of your employees want to do a good job and display their competency. They cannot succeed if they do not have the tools and skills needed. Let them know that you support their efforts to improve their skills through college courses, seminars, focused training classes or other learning activities.
  2. Communication is critical. Make sure that your employees understand how additional education can benefit them in their present and future positions. Do not make them feel as if you only support efforts that offer an immediate benefit to the company. Let them know that you are open to creative solutions to allow them to be students as well as employees.
  3. Whenever possible, be flexible. If an employee needs a class to graduate that is only offered during normal work hours, offer to adjust his or her schedule for the semester so that he or she can attend the class and then make up the time after hours or on weekends. If an employee wants to take a vacation day to attend a seminar on dealing with stress, approve this request
  4. Hold employees accountable for achieving results. If you offer tuition reimbursement, set a required grade that employees must earn to be reimbursed. If you pay for them to attend a seminar, ask them to provide you with a written or oral report on what they learned and how it can help them.
  5. Set a good example for your employees. Attend seminars or take CEU courses, then look for opportunities to share what you learned, such as interesting facts or new methods, with your employees. Many large corporations, including Aon, have embraced this philosophy to help them foster an environment in which lifelong learning is encouraged and supported.
  6. Make sure employees know that they own their careers. Ask them what job they would like to have in the future, and then help them chart a path to success. Point out what they will need, such as essential skills or additional education, but emphasize that it is up to them to meet the requirements.

As you can see, motivating your employees requires some effort on your part. However, you and your employees will receive many benefits that make it worth the effort.

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