#570       Innovative Leader     Volume 12, Number 2        February 2003

Motivating Employees
by Barbara A. Glanz

Ms. Glanz, president of Barbara Glanz Communications (http://www.barbaraglanz.com/), has written several books including Handle With Care: Motivating and Retaining Employees (McGraw-Hill, New York, 2002).

As I have studied the issues of motivation and retention over the years, I have found that a shorthand way to remember the elements of a joyful workplace is to think of the acronym CARE.

C = Creative Communication

A = Atmosphere and Appreciation for All

R = Respect and Reason for Being

E = Empathy and Enthusiasm

C = Creative Communication

Effective communication is a large part of what contributes to a healthy, cooperative work environment.  Organizations must be open and honest in their communications with employees.  Employees can take bad news; what they can’t live with is the fear that they’re being kept in the dark.  Be open, be honest, be up-front, be creative, be real.  In order to establish this environment, organizations need to communicate well by holding frequent “townhall” meetings to dispel rumors, keep any promises they have made, and clearly articulate the company’s progress.

With the daily deluge of phone calls, postal mail, and email, we need to do something extra, something that surprises people, to get their attention for our most important communications to be heard and heeded.

Here are three questions to ask whenever you have an important message to communicate:

1.  Does it get the information across clearly and accurately?  This is the business level of communication, and while it is of the utmost importance, many messages are ignored, dumped, or deleted when only this level is dealt with because they are so boring.  Think about most of the communications you get from the government, for example.

2.  How does it make the receiver feel?  This is the human level of the communication.  The look of a message, the tone, and word choice all can have an impact on whether the communication is effective.  If we are trying to “sell” someone on something, we need to create rapport, a relationship of trust, to get them on our side.  Think about marketing materials that have impacted you to make a buying decision, for example.  Another example is when you are doing exit interviews.  Change the question “Why are you leaving?” to “Why aren’t you staying?”  Just this slight difference in wording will help focus the employee’s answers differently.

3.  Does it surprise the receiver or get his/her attention?  This is most important with a critical communication because it ensures that the receiver will get the message.  Certainly we can’t do this with every communication; however, whenever you communicate in a creative way, people will remember it.  For example, aren’t there certain television commercials that you will never forget because they got your attention?

A = Atmosphere

A person moved into a new town and asked one of the residents, “What are the people in this town like?”  The resident asked, “What were the people like in the town you just left?”  The new person answered, “They were unfriendly and nasty.”  And the town resident said, “I think you’ll find the people here are just about the same.”

Later, the same resident was approached by another new arrival, who asked the same question.  Again, the resident asked, “What were the people like in the town you just left?”  The answer was “The people were warm and friendly.”  And the resident answered, “I think you’ll find the people here are just about the same.”

To create a positive work atmosphere:

  • Encourage fun.
  • Create a good physical place to work, including needed resources to do the job right.
  • Establish a mentoring program.
  • Actively promote positive relations among co-workers.
  • Support frequent contests, celebrations, and team-building activities.
  • Build an atmosphere of trust and fairness.
  • Make employees an essential part of the company’s community—an inclusive, extended-family relationship.

A = Appreciation for All

Research on what keeps employees motivated and productive shows appreciation as one of the top three desires.  Managers who truly appreciate their employees and show it in small but powerful ways have the lowest turnover and the highest commitment.  Most of us would do just about anything for a manager who appreciates us and our work.  Spend your time catching people doing things right, not doing things wrong.

Here’s what I recommend to create appreciation for all:

  • Get to know employees as individuals (personalize appreciation, awards, and recognition).  What is their passion?
  • Find out what is satisfying and dissatisfying to each employee.
  • Constantly change rewards and recognition.
  • Delegate responsibility for programs of rewards and recognition so employees at all levels are involved.
  • Make appreciation a part of daily management routine.

R = Respect

When we focus on employees as individuals and not numbers, we are treating them with respect.  Part of this respect is learning about employees and encouraging and valuing their strengths.  Unless managers are able to engage the whole person, they are not even coming close to capturing the potential contribution of each employee.

To increase respect for its employees, managers must:

  • Foster flexibility in every area—hours, benefits, tasks.
  • Provide ongoing training and personal development—growth opportunities.
  • Develop an organization-wide code of ethics and cascade that process down to each team—agreement on behaviors they will use with one another.
  • Give employees freedom whenever possible to choose projects and find challenging work according to their interests and skills.
  • Provide internal promotion and transfer opportunities.
  • Focus on giving up power, not accumulating it.

R = Reason for Being

People are desperately seeking meaning in their work.  Look at all the writing about spirituality in the workplace.  The workplace should be making a positive difference in someone’s life.

To give employees a reason for being, organizations must:

  • Emphasize the deeper, broader purpose of each person’s work.  How is what they do every day making someone’s life better?
  • Engender pride and commitment through the organization’s culture and brand.  How are we special?
  • Help employees to understand the organization’s mission statement, vision, and values, and how these apply to their day-to-day working.
  • Encourage employees to write their own personal mission statements.
  • Support character development and integrity training.
  • Promote the spirit of family in the organization.

E = Empathy

When organizations listen to employee’s personal needs, and help to provide resources (such as daycare or personal help) to fill those needs, they will be creating loyal, motivated employees.  Another common need is being of service to others.  Organizations that encourage and support employees in community service projects will win further commitment and loyalty.

In order to empathize with their employees, organizations must:

  • Support work/life programs.
  • Foster understanding of personal concerns/problems/needs.
  • Encourage job sharing and exchanges.
  • Provide monthly and yearly social welfare opportunities, encouraging employees to give back and care about the world outside their own doors.

E = Enthusiasm

Are you, as a manager, “contagiously enthusiastic” about the importance of the work you and your staff are doing?  If not, how can you expect your employees to be?

To spread contagious enthusiasm among employees, managers must:

  • Celebrate what is going right on a frequent basis.
  • Hold “guerilla” or spontaneous celebrations often.
  • Encourage positive work relations through team-building and training.
  • Get employees at all levels involved in planning and executing celebrations of all kinds.

Just being aware of factors that will influence your staff’s motivation is a great first step in CAREing.  

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