Thursday, August 23, 2012

7 Tips for Motivating Employees

Having trouble getting workers fired up about a project �" or your company in general? We've compiled some pointers from the experts.

Any CEO knows that employee motivation is a key to individual performance, group productivity, and maintaining a pleasant office culture. So how do you do it exactly? For a dose of inspiration on how to motivate those who work for you, we've compiled the best recent pointers on the subject from articles published in Inc. magazine and on

1. Set a Good Example.
Remember that your attitude is contagious. Kevin Plank, founder of Under Armour, an apparel company located in Baltimore, says that communication is key to making members of your company's team feel including in major decisions. "I listened to everyone's opinions, and, without fail, they'd bring up things I hadn't thought of. More important, my team members knew that they were part of the process and that their voices mattered," he told Inc. "Employees are more motivated when they feel needed, appreciated, and valued." Plank also recommends hiring employees who have great leadership skills. At his company, he calls these natural leaders "engines," and peppers them strategically around the organization. Read more.

2. Focus on Employee Happiness Rather Than Employee Motivation.
Zappos is often hailed as the most employee-friendly business out there. But, perks aside, what really keeps the workers there motivated? When Inc.'s Max Chafkin last interviewed Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh in Las Vegas, he discovered that what Hsieh really cares about is making Zappos's employees and customers feel really, really good. In fact, he's decided that his entire business revolves around happiness. Chafkin writes: "Zappos's approach to workplace bliss differs significantly from that of other employee-friendly businesses. For one thing, Zappos pays salaries that are often below market rates - the average hourly worker makes just over $23,000 a year. Though the company covers 100 percent of health care costs, employees are not offered perks found at many companies, such as on-site child care, tuition reimbursement, and a 401(k) match. Zappos does offer free food to its employees, but the pile of cold cuts in the small cafeteria loses its allure faster than you can say Googleplex. Instead of buying his employees' loyalty, Hsieh has managed to design a corporate culture that challenges our conception of that tired phrase." Read more.

3. Make Sure Employees Share in the Company's Success.
Employee performance, productivity, and motivation can all be tied to how invested a worker feels in his or her company. That's what makes profit sharing such a powerful tool – especially when the company is consistently successful. Sue Holloway, an expert in compensation at WorldatWork, a human resources organization focused on employee benefits, told that the objective of a profit sharing plan "is to foster employee identification with the organization's success." By implementing such a program, the CEO is saying, "We're all in this together, and everybody's focused on profit," Holloway says. Read more.

4. Create a Culture of Autonomy and Agency.
In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Daniel H. Pink writes that the crash of Wall Street is a striking example of the peril of motivating employees strictly with gobs of cash. He advises that instead, companies should create conditions for employees to find the joy in work itself. That can mean giving workers the autonomy to choose what they do and with whom, which can help foster a desire for mastery of tasks and skill sets – and simply doing more, better. Read more.
5. Encourage Worker to Voice Complaints.
When Dell amassed an online "antifan club," excoriating the PC maker across the blogosphere, it not only acknowledged criticism, but also actually fixed things, according to Jeff Jarvis's book What Would Google Do. "Dell transformed itself from worst to first in the era of customer control," writes Jarvis. How about applying the same principle apply to employees? There are scores of reasons why employees don't contribute critique of management or their company's culture – from fear of retaliation to hesitation to appear ungrateful. But remember, as Inc.'s Leigh Buchanan writes, "When the heat's not lowered, though, steam escapes." Read more.

6. Take on Fun Volunteer Assignments.
In the heat of the recession, Door Number 3, an Austin-based advertising agency, saw business slow. Thus, creative employees were occasionally idle on the job. M.P. Mueller, the company's president, decided to ramp up the agency's pro bono efforts – an established way to build work portfolios and maintain track records. It also had the side-effect of keeping employees sharp and motivated between projects. Mueller said these projects not only help charities, which also struggle during hard times, but also help employees create some of their most inspired work. "You get a lot more freedom with nonprofit clients," she says. Read more.

7. Get in Touch With Your Inner Start-up.
Every morning in the Chicago offices of Total Attorneys, a legal software and service firm, small groups of the company's 180 employees gather in clusters around the office. Laughter, banter, and collaboration ensue. For about 15 minutes, the office might be said to resemble a college cafeteria – but to CEO Ed Scanlan it's a perfect example of what he calls controlled chaos. That's a process inspired by a process for designing software called "agile development," which aims to foster flexibility, speed and teamwork – in other words, make an established company work more like a start-up. Read more.