For the most part, the benefits of highly motivated employees are self-evident. It’s much easier to get the results you want from subordinates who actually want to show up at work every day.
Unfortunately, motivating employees is easier said than done. Every employee is unique and subject to different stressors, habits, and patterns of thought. Convincing a group of adults to do what you want sometimes seems only slightly easier than herding cats — no disrespect to cats.
Try these six strategies to get your employees into gear and achieve the results you need.
- Give the Gift of Ownership
Most management experts agree that employees perform better when they have more skin in the game. Perhaps that’s why some 14 million employees are covered by some form of employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), according to the National Center for Employee Ownership.
ESOPs are complex, but not insurmountably so. And their ameliorative effects on morale are just the beginning: Like other popular employee benefits and performance incentives, such as retirement plan matches, ESOPs offer attractive tax benefits for employers.
- Nourish Their Souls
Conventional wisdom tells us to keep religion and politics out of the workplace.
In this hyper-tribal, hyper-sensitive era of ours, that’s usually sound advice. But it has its limits. Set politics aside for a moment: Religion is not the same as spirituality. Spiritual thought, even belief in a higher power, can coexist with secular ideals — provided the workplace remains a proselytization-free zone.
When employees struggle to achieve balance or peace in their personal lives, they may inadvertently threaten your organization’s balance and trajectory. Help them find their centers and quell their doubts by nourishing their souls with audio recordings or even relevant sermon transcripts from respected thinkers and teachers.
You just might open your employees’ eyes to never-before-considered truths — and, with luck, break the grip of doubt.
- Go to a 4.5-Day Workweek
Everyone loves working hard on Friday afternoon.
Just kidding. You don’t need a longitudinal study to know that Friday afternoon is your least productive part of the workweek.
So why not do away with Friday afternoon, or at least make it more bearable for your employees? Make it optional for non-essential staffers to stay in the office after, say, 2 p.m. on Friday. Or institute company-wide “Friday fundays” — happy hours, field trips, volunteer campaigns.
- Move Away From Structured Hours Altogether
This is an even more radical idea than #3 above. It’s definitely not for every employer or class of employee — sorry, shift workers. But, if you’re built around delivering results by deadlines, rather than results on demand, adopting a work-when-you-want policy isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.
Work-when-you-want presents lots of logistical considerations, from time tracking, to remote communication, to more stringent and scalable accountability protocols. You’re probably already thinking about these issues, though — institutionalizing them is really just a difference in kind.
- Loosen Limits on Vacation Time
Every month, more employers adopt flexible vacation policies. Rather than hold team members to strict limits on paid time off, bosses are acknowledging rank-and-file employees’ agency — and maturity — by letting them set their own time-off limits.
The catch: Before they punch out for a long weekend at the cabin or a full week in the Caribbean, they need to finish everything on their plate and set their replacements up for success. In practice, employees subject to flexible vacation policies might end up working the same amount as employees subject to stricter limits. But they may be much happier about it.
- Learn to Love the 80/20 Policy
In the 2000s, Google became famous (or infamous) in Silicon Valley for its 80/20 policy, under which Googlers were permitted (even encouraged) to devote 20% of their valued time to side projects that might or might not bear fruit down the road.
Whether this policy ever really existed in unadulterated form is an open question. According to insiders, the mere fact of its existence was enough to motivate the crew in Mountain View.
If it sort of worked for Google with limited buy-in from management, it’s likely to work for your company if you’re willing to become its champion. Employees who know their extracurricular passions matter to management are less likely to guard them jealously — and, though most won’t pan out, that raises your chances of cashing in on a team member’s flash of brilliance.