The past couple of years has seen an unprecedented shift in business and financial challenges and opportunities on a global scale. While some western countries experienced serious downturns, many developing countries found their feet, making their fortunes by attracting western businesses to set up base in their country where business costs and labor are so much cheaper. While the wisdom of this is being debated and some governments are actively encouraging their home grown businesses to invest and remain on home soil, the major effect of this outsourcing and taking industry overseas is diminished job and career opportunities at home, which has a demoralizing effect on those who’ve lost their jobs.
Now, as businesses in the major western countries get back on their feet, one of the key factors to their success is not going to be in the number of new products they can invent or manufacture for less than their competition, but from the people who work for them… the employees who drive their business. If a company is to rebuild itself and continue to grow, it must have enthusiastic, productive and committed people and motivating the workforce must become a key strategy in business growth plans.
Studies show that money alone does not provide long term motivation, because employees have to know the difference between being paid for the job they do as opposed to being rewarded for doing a good job, so with many companies still facing the necessity to watch their spending, here are some examples of motivational programs and options they can consider.
Health Care Programs. While many large companies are still investing in programs aimed at improving and maintaining the health of their employees, recent studies have shown that an increasing number of U.S. businesses are buckling under the financial pressure and either reducing the options they provide or considering withdrawing from it altogether.
Some businesses are considering sharing the cost of their health plans with their employees, others are taking a look at their plans and reducing the number of options, and others are looking more toward health and wellness type programs, for example, gym memberships, massage, yoga and tai chi classes.
If your organization decides to stick to providing a health care plan, you can save money by renegotiating terms with your health care plan providers, who also in a competitive environment and if they want your business they will negotiate. You can lower costs by asking for discounts and special deals if your company uses certain pharmacies or gyms. Now is also the time to expect better service and more for your company dollar. Why not ask your provider to include cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes tests for your workforce, free of charge?
Communicate and Stay Engaged with Your Workforce. The days of keeping the workforce in the dark are long gone as are producing paper newsletters and notices. We’re not only considering the environment by not wasting paper, we’re saving money. Savvy employers are keeping in touch by using “social media” and the trend will grow in 2010. No longer the domain of those with too much time on their hands, social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are becoming part of business culture with more and more businesses using it as a form of network marketing as well as keeping in touch.
It’s important, especially during challenging times when employees feel the most vulnerable and insecure, to maintain regular contact, to give them encouragement, boost their spirits and their motivation.
An increasing number of businesses are turning to social medial to engage with their workforce, moreso than using email. Other tools used are company blogs and online forums and discussion boards to stay in touch and encourage communication. Another benefit of using social media for communications is the ability to interact with individuals and encourage communication between all levels of a company and between teams situated in other parts of the country or even the around the world.
Match the Reward to the Employee. Another challenge for companies to face in the future are the number of different generations within the workforce and it is predicted that by 2020, there will be five generations working, each with their own needs and wants and they will all need to be handled differently. In leadership, one size definitely will not fit all. For the immediate future, the main issue will be retaining your top end performers and increased competition for jobs from those whose retirement funds were destroyed and now seek to return to paid work. Within this segment you will find very experienced performers who may well be happy to stay in the one job, but this needs to be balanced with an experienced or potentially talented younger workforce who you also need to be motivated and retained for the long term future. Clearly, the motivational needs of both these generations is going to be vastly different.
Non-financial rewards. These days, two strong motivators are related to career advancement and job security. For future long term benefits, motivate your high performers with diverse career development plans, so they don’t have to leave your company to find advancement elsewhere. If you cannot promote from within your own company, consider transfers within your own branch to different departments or to other branches of your division or even sister companies. An employee whose ideal career future can be nurtured and provided, is an employee you will keep.
Other ways businesses can motivate employees include share schemes. Some countries offer tax savings to employers and employees for approved share schemes and it would be prudent to check if this applies to you, so you can take advantage of it. Share schemes are a low cost incentive for companies to introduce yet provides long term motivation. Employees have the incentive to be productive on a long term basis because the better the company’s shares perform, the more they get to share in the success.
You can also offer more social activities for employees to boost morale and help them relax. Consider a company sausage sizzle in the park, or maybe start the day with a 5-10 minute relaxation program such as Tai Chi. You can offer a day off to the employee who finishes their important tasks and has met all their deadlines.
It doesn’t make sense for businesses to not consider benefits that they deem will cost the company in some way, such as giving an employee the day off, when you consider the cost to businesses from employees taking too many “sickies” and wasting time at work. A happy, motivated employee can do the work of two and assist to accelerate your business. Achieving that type of employee just makes good business sense.
Team Spirit: Developing teams will continue to be high on the agenda and working within a fun and uplifting team environment is a very cheap way to motivate and encourage employees. Nobody enjoys going to work with people with whom they have little in common and they have difficulty getting along with. People who feel ostracized by age or cultural differences are not going to fit in or be easily accepted by the majority – like broken links in a chain, the team will be adversely affected because not everyone is cooperating and working smoothly together.
People working together, communicating and cooperating, regardless of individual differences, is the key to long term success. But it isn’t just developing team spirit within individual departments that is important, the new mission is to make your entire organization’s workforce be one huge team who can work together. In this way, all employees would contribute their ideas and communicate with other departments to find ways to make great ideas work. Not only is this hugely beneficial to the company, but it makes the employees feel like they have a vested interest and an important role to play. Such individuals are highly motivated and geared for success.
Positive Feedback. One motivational tool that will continue to be successful is providing positive feedback. It costs nothing and provides huge results. Employees need to know they are doing something right and worthwhile. While it is important to point out areas that need improvement, counter this with acknowledgement of areas where they are doing well. Don’t just hand out random compliments, tie the positive feedback to real results and actions and encourage the employee to continue their excellent work. Let them know their efforts do not go unnoticed by the ‘top brass’ – and this is also a subtle way of informing them that any lack of effort would therefore also not go unnoticed.
Motivation is tied to morale. When morale is low, productivity drops and employees leave. Business suffers. During difficult financial times when it is not possible to consider financial rewards and incentives, companies must be creative and flexible.
Many of today’s younger workforce are motivated not only by high paying careers but also work that appeals to their personal interests and that also offers opportunities for personal and career growth. They want to do work that gives them pride and a sense of accomplishment. Many have learned from previous generations that it is important to do work that makes you happy, that gives you a reason to bounce out of bed in the morning with anticipation as opposed to dread, and they are looking for employers who can provide that stimulation PLUS time enough to enjoy a private life.
It is imperative for organizations to link their corporate missions to work motivation because machinery, office equipment, buildings and great products or services alone do not grow a business… people do.