Disengaged employees come to work, but are absent, inactive, and unproductive. They annoy customers, and provide inadequate service to clients. Whether you’re the Chief Executive of a multinational corporation, or small business owner, disengaged employees can be a nightmare.
I learnt some time ago that a good leader is someone who can make people do things because they want to; in other words, good leaders keep their subordinates motivated. Motivation is the willingness to do something, and is conditioned by the ability to satisfy some need for the individual performing the action. This doesn’t sound complicated, right? But because need is a psychological or physiological deficiency that makes outcomes attractive, motivating employees to perform tasks can be challenging.
In the past, it was believed that by simply offering employees a raise, overtime pay, or more free time was enough to keep them motivated. This is not the case anymore. Nowadays, individuals are becoming increasingly personalized; what motivates one employee may not necessarily motivate another. In order to understand just how different people can be, leaders/supervisors need to become sensitive to this change, and understand why it is necessary to understand the individual differences of your subordinates.
If I had to pick, I would say, the prevalent cause of disengagement in present times is locus of control. It is the degree to which a person believes he/she controls his/her destiny. Some employees find it hard to be motivated if they feel they are being controlled. This kind of people require some degree of respect. For example, if such an employee could be included in some decision-making (especially in those that directly affect them), it would motivate him/her. When employees have the full context about a decision and the options considered, they are more likely to support it regardless of whether they agree with it or not. Since the objective of decision-making is to get the best possible result, or sometimes, the satisfying one, it may be a good idea to involve the people it will be affecting, in order to achieve maximum cooperation. One of the best ways to involve subordinates in decision-making is through forums or group decision-making. It provides more information and more alternatives/solutions. However, this may not work for all leaders, depending on personalities, time-constraints, and number of employees. Nevertheless, if you request input from your subordinates, be sure to consider their opinions in making a successful decision, so as not to lose credibility and respect.
Other common factors that affect employee behaviour and motivation are: Self-Esteem – degree to which a person likes or dislikes him/herself, and Risk Propensity – degree to which people are willing to take chances. Employees with low esteem need appreciation and encouragement in order to feel motivated, and those who habitually avoid risk, only require recognition in order to feel motivated. Apart from appreciation, encouragement, recognition, and respect, other ways to motivate disengaged employees is through rewards (in cash or kind), making debates transparent, and personal interviews – asking one-on-one what changes would improve their performance.
Remember, there is no “one size fits all” approach in motivation. You have to know your employees and make improvements as you go on; better to be proactive than reactive. Motivating employees can be a daunting task, but being the boss isn’t an easy job. I hope this helps boost employee morale for all business owners in this new year. Cheers!
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