• Aryeh Brickner

Providing purpose: a key to employee motivation

In this clip (one of my personal favorites) by Victor Frankl, the world-renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, we can discover a valuable lesson in employee motivation. He is discussing the importance of finding meaning in life, but considering how much of our lives are spent working, it’s certainly no less important to have meaning at work. What I am doing makes a difference in the company, in its performance, for its clients or customers, and for its profits.

One aspect in keeping employees motivated is making sure they understand the intrinsic benefit to the work they are doing and how it is aligned with the greater good of the company. Depending on the size of the organization, this can come easily or not quite so. Strategic planning, road-maps, “visions” are often kept locked up in the minds of a few executive insiders while the rest of the office is simply given marching orders. Knowing the “why” can invigorate, enlighten and certainly motivate people to do their job, and do it well.

If you’re part of a management team which has spent most of Q4 working on plans and budgets, make sure you are updating your teams on the progress. Even better would be to include them as much as possible in the actual process. Be sure that everyone understands the company strategy, goals, and how you plan to reach them. Aside from being a motivational tool, the more people understand, the more they can contribute!

Here’s a few practical ways to ensure your 2018 plans are communicated effectively to your employees.

1. Keep it simple! No long-winded stories, or convoluted wording. To quote Jack Welch, “Where are you now, where do you want to be, and how do you plan to get there”.

2. When possible, tell it over in story form. People tend to pay more attention to stories and subsequently, can better share that story.

3. Don’t use email! Email updates are good for news, notifications, birthdays, etc. Do NOT announce a yearly plan via email. Assuming people read it, it’s highly doubtful it will generate any excitement.

4. It should come from the top: If your company doesn’t have a company wide meeting to discuss the next year’s plans, don’t be too shy to invite your CEO to a department meeting so he or she can give it over themselves to your team.

5. Use data to explain the decision-making process. This doesn’t mean showing endless boring graphs, rather providing the major metrics behind a decision. We’re focusing on this particular market because of X,Y,Z, attributes within that market.

6. Show how each department fits into the big picture and why each of their contributions as a part is an important component to achieving the overall company goals.

7. Make sure the vision is in line with the reality on the ground. Timelines, resources, budgets should be done as accurately as possible. Being ambitious is one thing, being reckless and unrealistic is another.

8. Listen to the employee feedback. If you’ve take the time and effort to include them, then certainly take the time and effort to listen to any feedback they might have.

9. Follow up, follow up, follow up! If your company is starting the year in a new direction, make sure it’s not business as usual once you’ve announced the change. Ideally, senior management will be highly visible during the weeks following any company event which details the yearly plans. The worst thing to do is say we’re going to do X, Y, Z, and then it’s back to the same business as usual feeling in the office and management is nowhere to be found.

Not sure how you or your team fits into company plans, just ask. And if nobody can provide an adequate response, maybe it’s time you start thinking about how you can fit into a different company’s plans!

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