Whatever your approach is to establish a motivated workforce, the end result can benefit your organization and its leadership.
There are two ways to establish a motivated workforce: You either hire motivated people or you motivate employees. Both present challenges.
A motivated workforce operates so effectively that things just get done. These employees have the desire, willingness and energy to produce at a high level without needing to be told what to do, how to do it, who should do what, when it needs to be done or what the end result should be. Organizations lucky enough to have a motivated workforce can do some pretty spectacular things time and time again.
There are two schools of thought on how to establish a motivated workforce. One is that you hire only motivated people. The other is that you can, and must, motivate employees. Both approaches make sense, and both present challenges for organizational leadership.
Hiring the Motivated
The approach of only hiring people who are already motivated requires expending a great deal of effort, and as much time as is necessary, to find the right people. As not every candidate fits into the “right people” category, the recruiting process can be a challenge. Too often, companies are under pressure to fill key positions quickly, which can lead to settling for a candidate who is less than ideal. If we pursue the path of only hiring motivated people, leaders must resist the temptation to settle. If they are not convinced that a candidate has the motivational characteristics being sought, leaders have to be willing to say “no” instead of trying to find ways to say “yes.”
So, when faced with the reality of time constraints, how can we be confident we are hiring the right motivated person who will be passionate about the job and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed? Certain interview questions can help in assessing someone’s level of motivation, such as:
- Describe the work environment in which you are most effective.
- What career goals have you set? Which have you achieved?
- How do you define success in your current job?
- What have you seen that motivated some of your coworker’s performance?
- What role does your boss play in your motivation?
- What have you done to stay motivated in your recent jobs?
Some say that the best candidates to fill a position are those who are already employed. Therefore, an organization’s current recruiting process may need to be modified to ensure that it includes enough search activities to increase the pool of motivated candidates.
For sure, when you hire a motivated employee, the leadership role can focus on inspiring that employee and maintaining his or her high level of energy. With a motivated employee, there is little need for frequent follow up and discussions about accountability.
The approach of recognizing that employees can and must be motivated assumes that leaders can do just that. For some, this is second nature, however, not every leader is comfortable trying to motivate others, especially leaders who have come from a “only hire the motivated” environment. Motivating others requires effort, much of which is subsequent to the hiring process. At times leaders may inherit responsibility for areas of the organization consisting of talented, yet not well-motivated employees. As it would be impractical to replace all employees in such areas, a leader must strive to increase motivation within the group. While there have been hundreds of books written on how to motivate employees, one of my favorites, “100 Ways to Motivate Others” by Steve Chandler, offers some practical, proven techniques including:
- Be the cause, not the effect. What do we want to cause to happen today?
- Manage agreements, not people. Make agreements (commitments people make to you) on what needs to be done and manage performance of those agreements.
- Know your purpose. It does no good to do useless things well.
- Don’t criticize upper management. It’s just a “cop out.”
- Score the performance. Find the right metrics and use them to show everyone how you are doing.
- Give up the need to be right and focus on achieving something.
Other actions leaders can take to motivate their workforce are:
- Stay positive. The way a leader behaves is reflected in how employees behave. If leaders are not positive, how can they expect their employees to be?
- Let employees make decisions. Only by making decisions will employees learn from their own successes and failures and become comfortable to make more decisions.
- Encourage collaboration. Employees who feel they are contributing to the organization in a meaningful way are likely to exhibit desire, willingness and energy.
- Be willing to try something different. This exposes employees to the effect that change can have, with the ultimate objective of making them more open to change and likely even promoting change in the future.