What are the ways to motivate employees? That’s the evergreen question of managers across all industries. No matter how well you’ve done last quarter, you must beat those numbers in the next quarter. It’s an unsustainable situation.
However, staff motivation isn’t a line item on your budget that can be deleted. It might be elusive and nearly impossible to measure, but it’s the fuel that drives performance. In this article we explore three new ways to help motivate employees and teams: promoting collaboration, getting new tools that promote visibility, and supporting your teams. New science and new leadership approaches are changing the way we think about motivation.
New Ways to Motivate
Follow the trite advice of motivational posters or try using the carrot-or-stick method, if you want, but those blunt instruments often bludgeon an employee. Some might thrive on catchphrases and competition, but new discoveries in neuroscience offer a different, more nuanced approach.
Employee motivation has entered a new era thanks to “technological advances in functional magnetic imaging,” according to Kimberly Schaufenbuel, program director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We did not understand the core science behind these practices.”
In an article from Mashable reporting on her white paper “Motivation on the Brian – Applying the Neuroscience of Motivation in the Workplace,” she states that “we’re finally able to understand the workings of the brain. We are beginning to see the physical link these and other management practices have to the brain.”
Where Does Motivation Come From?
What motivates employees? Motivation in the workplace is mostly in your head. It’s how we perceive something. Both hard workers and lazy ones alike have similar potential to motivate themselves, though different stimuli charge them into action.
A recent study on motivation at Vanderbilt University revealed how chemicals in the brain like dopamine impact one’s willingness to work. Using brain mapping, the researchers found that hard working go-getters who work for rewards had a “higher release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in areas of the brain known to play an important role in reward and motivation.”
That part of the brain, the striatum and ventromedial cortex, however, is not at play for slackers or lazy workers. They are not as willing to work for a reward, but, according to the study, had “high dopamine levels in another brain area that plays a role in emotion and risk perception, the anterior insula.” Therefore, for all kinds of workers, employee motivation techniques are really in the perception of that task and reward that is impacting the ability to motivate oneself.
So, how does one compete with biology to motivate their teams, regardless of the psychology makeup of its members?
There is another root of motivation, called intrinsic motivation, which people interested in motivation in management should be aware of. This is a self-generated urge that comes from within the individual, without external rewards. It’s the interest in the activity that drives the motivation.
According to the Self-Determination Theory, developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, there are three psychological needs that all people need: the need to feel competent, a need to feel related and a need to feel autonomous. Motivating your employees comes from feeling valuable and intrinsic to the success of the organization.
Tips to Boost Motivation
There are ways beyond the traditional models that can help improve workplace motivation and make an employee become a more motivated worker. As science has shown, not everyone will respond in the same way, so you might have to pick and choose your methods to motivate your whole team.
The good news is that there are ways to motivate that aren’t punitive or require dangling gifts in front of your employees, which can make them feel more like pawns in a game rather than valued members of team working together to complete a project. Here are a few ways to increase your employees’ motivation.
Yes, collaboration is a bit of a buzzword. But as a method of motivating employees, there’s something to be said for devoting your attention to the group instead of focusing on individuals. First of all, it’s the team that is assigned the tasks that make up the project. They’re working together, so you might as well address them as a unified force.
Also, it’s fun for people to work together, feel they’re part of something larger, where they’re still getting credit for their own part in the success. Collaborative teams are more motivated, because they are the ones who are given some control of the work. This is far more satisfying then having a top-down structure, where you feel as if you’re just following orders. If you show your employees that you trust them, that you’re not constantly looking over their shoulder and monitoring the time they spend on social media, you’ll be surprised that they work harder and be more productive. That means listening, encouraging everyone to listen to suggestions, and implement those that make most sense.
You’ll need to create a collaborative culture at the office, if you want to reap the benefits for your team. Collaboration creates a common sense of purpose and helps with team motivation. It solidifies teams, making them work more effectively together. It also creates transparency between different parts of the organization, which puts one’s work in context and allows for a more holistic approach. This understanding helps employees work harder, because now they care about the whole process and see their important part in that process.
Get Tools for Better Visibility
As motivational activities for employees go, few think of the workplace software as the answer. However, today’s project management software and organizational tools were created to improve the way we work, help up become more successful with our work, and this directly ties to how motivated we can be at work.
PM Tools can support teams and help to promote a feeling of success and a job well done. For example, a task management tool can create a feeling of success when teams or individuals have successfully completed a task or a project. Or when managers can see progress being made on tasks, they are more likely to have confidence in their team that they’re working hard.
Some PM tools also have real-time visibility in reporting. You can see instantly whether teams are making progress, so you can congratulate them or help motivate them in real-time, when the impact is greatest. While it’s nice to get a pat on the back at the end of a task or project, that does little to help motivate teams in the process of actually doing the work.
Finally, when you use collaborative PM tools, then you’re combining the collaboration and the tools to supercharge the intrinsic motivation of every team member. Now everyone is connected. They can work together on tasks, sharing ideas and documents. With integrations, data is also connected, enabling teams to be more efficient in their processes. Emails then alert a team member when a task is coming due or when someone has added to the conversation. Therefore, they’re never out of the loop. It’s a great way to motivate staff motivating employees in the workplace.
The tools themselves, therefore, help streamline work, which helps team members feel more effective because they are more effective. By keeping team members communicating, collaborating and on track, whether they’re under the same roof or working remotely, you’re building a tighter and more motivated team.
As you’re seeing, you don’t just tell someone to get motivated. This isn’t a football game, and you’re not a coach on the sidelines. Even if that approach might work for some people, it won’t work for everybody.
In fact, motivation doesn’t have to be a top-down approach. High-functioning, collaborative teams can motivate themselves every day at work, as long as they have the support of the leadership.
But employee evaluations aren’t usually done as a team. So how do you work to support the individuals on your teams, as well? You must invite them into the evaluation process. Engage each employee in the process of understanding what motivates them and explain that their involvement is critical to team success and seek their input on what’s working and what’s not.
If you invite open and honest feedback, on the team and the individual level, you’re demonstrating to your team that you support them. That you are interested in their contribution and that their work matters. That’s motivating.
If you’re looking for a software tool that will help motivate your team, then look no further than ProjectManager.com, a cloud-based project management solution that offers real-time data. Try it for yourself, and see how it will motivate your team, by taking this free 30-day trial.