What Motivates Employees to Perform Well?

 Show Interest

What Motivates Employees to Perform Well?

 Show Interest
We tend to assume that a good salary and good perks motivate employees to stay in their jobs and perform well, but is this really the case?  We may think that appreciation, additional rewards, recognition, flexi-time, additional holidays, a better car, promotion and the like are all motivational factors that keep people working for us at their full potential.

The trouble is, that’s what we think.  In my experience, motivation is as individual and personal as the person themselves and so, as with many other aspects of employee relationships, one size does not fit all. 

One of the keys to being a good manager is to really know what motivates the people you manage.   For example, if you interview someone for a role, it is likely that during the interview they will reveal what is truly motivating them to get the job – if not, just ask the question direct!

 They might say that they are looking forward to a new challenge or to working as part of a team or to being able to use their creativity or to develop their strengths and skills etc.  Yes, I know that people don’t always mean what they say in job interviews but, if you conduct them well, they can give you a real insight as to what are the key motivating factors for that particular individual. 

Very often though, once the job is offered, the person comes on board and joins the team, we tend to see them as ‘one of the team’ rather than as an individual with their own personal motivators, and the information we gathered when we interviewed them is lost.

In some ways, the information you gleaned when you were interviewing someone for a role should be constantly in your mind as you begin to manage them.  The motivating factors they revealed can and should be built in to their individual induction process; they should be built into your reviews of their performance, and your general approach and attitude towards their progress. 

For example, if someone tells you at interview that they are ambitious and keen to grow into a new role, why not check in with them from time to time as to whether or not this is their experience with you.  This has double benefits – firstly, you remind the employee why they joined your business and what they were looking for, and secondly you get to find out whether or not you are meeting their expectations.

The first three to six months’ of someone’s employment provides you with a great opportunity to discover or check what really is motivating them and whether you are able to continue motivating them.  By asking them what they are really enjoying about their role, what they want more of and what they are not enjoying so much you can build on the picture you have of this person.  Then you can work out whether you are going to be able to really engage them in the business and, if so, how.  If it turns out that you are not going to be able to keep them engaged, you can have a frank and open discussion about this and about other opportunities within the business or, perhaps, elsewhere.  In all other cases, you can help create a role that works for them and therefore for you.

This personal approach and interest in the employee as an individual may, in itself, be motivational for them.  Most employees come into a new role with a high level of motivation and it is your job, as their manager, to look for ways of maintaining and increasing this initial ‘positivity’.   Traditionally we tend to treat employees within a team or a department, or even a business, as a group of people with the same interests and desires.  Worse, we tend to treat them as potentially ‘bad’ if they fail to meet our expectations for any reason.  For example, if someone is late for work three or four times during the first three months of their employment we view them as ‘trouble’ and may feel the need to warn, discipline or even dismiss them.  What a waste of someone who, just a short time ago during an interview, made you believe in them enough to offer them a job! 

The same thing happens if their performance is not what we expected it to be – we blame them and take the ‘appropriate’ action.   But what if the reasons are outside their control or, worse, within ours?  The late employee may be finding the commute difficult, may have a young child to juggle, be going through a divorce, may have a disability we are unaware of or be out partying or drinking too much.

The poor performer may feel out of their depth, be struggling to adapt to a new working environment, adjust to your systems or have problems fitting in to the existing team. 

In both examples, the employee may have huge potential and your first reaction, I would suggest, should be to find a solution to whatever the problem is and find ways to sufficiently re-motivate them to really live up to their potential. 

This starts with a frank and ‘motivational’ discussion with them about the problem, the reasons for it and the ways in which it can be resolved.  It should not start with a disciplinary style approach of blaming the employee, regarding them as a failure etc and threatening dismissal.

If you have genuinely made a mistake when you recruited someone, then I am the first to say admit it and simply say goodbye to that person as soon as you realise this.  But most people come into your business with really high levels of motivation and, if something has gone wrong, it is worth taking the time to find a solution for them and for you.  You have seen something in this person and it is surely worth the time and effort to find them the right role, the right goals and the right motivation to achieve great things.

So many of our greatest entrepreneurs have dropped out of ‘normal’ businesses because they have not felt valued and motivated enough to stay and many more, who could have added real value, have simply left and gone elsewhere.

High levels of motivation are almost never achieved by external factors such as pay rises, perks or better company cars; they are achieved by managers who are truly interested in and understand the various needs of each of their employees.  Use the interview feedback and the first three to six months of employment to really explore what motivates each individual you recruit and then do everything you can to follow through with that during their career with you.

Our HR Evolved course helps managers and HR managers develop interview and recruitment practices that really work for businesses and then to manage new recruits in a way that seeks out and develops their potential and  finds ways to truly motivate them as individuals to achieve real success.  If you would like to know more please contact me 
  • Recruitment
  • HR & Legal advice
  • Managemenrt & Team Coaching
  • motivating employees
  • employee performance

I am a qualified employment law solicitor with over 25 years' experience working for the most part with employers. All businesses are vulnerable to tribunal claims from employees. I specialise in…

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