Merge's Blog

Category Archives: Motivation Tools

Yet another sure-fire way to create disengaged employees

disengaged employeesLast month, I blogged about two different scenarios demonstrating how otherwise-reasonable managers do stupid things that lead to demotivated and disengaged employees.  Specifically, I wrote about managers who short-sightedly block their employees’ internal transfers and promotions, and those who erroneously mistake attendance for productivity.  Both those posts generated several emails (and even a phone call), all from readers who agreed completely with the points I was making.  A couple of weeks later, I received another email from a reader, outlining yet another situation that occurs repeatedly, almost always resulting in disengaged employees.  This event – when managers watch the clock to see what time employees arrive and leave, but then don’t give them credit for the work they do on their own time – is a huge demotivator.

Work isn’t just done from the office any more!

I couldn’t agree more!  In today’s world of advanced technology, work isn’t just conducted in the office anymore.  Continue reading

More workplace motivators that work – allow personalization of workspaces

It’s been almost three weeks since I last did an instalment (Strategy #23: volunteer together) in our video series about specific ideas on workplace motivators to build morale and employee engagement.  So I figured it was time for another one!  Today’s idea is to allow for creativity and fun in decorating and personalizing individual workspaces.

Allow creativity and fun in personalizing individual workspaces

When you think about how much time you spend at work, it may give you cause to pause.  Roughly one-third of your life is spent in the pursuit of an income, and for those of you who know yourself to be workaholics, that fraction is even higher.  So it makes a lot of sense to make your workspace fun, welcoming and appealing.  With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that allowing employees to decorate their workspace can be a great morale booster.  Let your people personalize their immediate work environment, whether it’s a cubicle or an office, with bright colours, family and pet photos, toys, individualized mugs, fresh flowers, cards, and just about anything else.  As long as it is tasteful and doesn’t create a tripping or safety hazard, let your staff be creative.

So let me tell you what NOT to do.  Continue reading

Latest in our series on effective workplace motivators – volunteer together

Last week, in our ongoing video series on workplace motivators, I gave you Strategy #22 which was very fundamental – to give your employees a safe and comfortable working environment.  Today’s strategy for engaging and motivating employees: volunteer together.

Volunteer together

True story.  It’s a weekday morning, and six members of the sales team have arrived at the home of an elderly citizen. Recently out of hospital, advanced osteoporosis means that she must now use a walker or a wheelchair, and the front-door steps that she has climbed for over 20 years are now an insurmountable challenge. She may have to leave her home.  Until the sales team comes to the rescue!  Within a matter of hours, they have a secure solid ramp built from the sidewalk to her front door. By noon, the gang is done and gathered in a restaurant just a few kilometres away, enjoying lunch, comparing injuries, and laughing about the inevitable mishaps from earlier in the day.

Another true story.  In another part of the city, all eight accounts payable team members spend their afternoon in the local food bank, sorting through huge hampers of canned and packaged goods that arrived at the warehouse after last week’s annual pre-Christmas push. It takes them almost five hours to finish their assigned section, and soon after, they make their way to the local pub for libations and snacks, where they swap stories and reminisce about the afternoon’s adventures. Continue reading

Foolish short-sighted management practices … the chronicles continue!

Last week I blogged about managers who short-sightedly block their employees’ internal transfers and promotions.  Well it must have struck a nerve for many, because I received several emails and even a couple of phone calls on the subject (all of whom echoed my sentiments, by the way).  It was during one of these phone conversations that another example of foolish short-sighted management practices came up.  This one: managers who turn absence issues into performance issues.

Attendance does not equal productivity

Now once again, let me clarify.  I’m not talking about the poorly-performing employee who, amongst other failings, is consistently absent without good reason.  Yes, in that situation, it IS a performance issue.  But what I am talking about are the short-sighted managers who equate attendance with productivity.  The reality of life is that employees – good employees – get injured, have children who get sick, face vehicle breakdowns, and experience plumbing emergencies.  And when that happens, what they really value is understanding and flexibility from their boss.  Understanding that they didn’t choose to have this adversity befall them, and the flexibility to find alternate solutions that will allow them to deal with the problem at hand AND meet their responsibilities at work.  If you are the manager who doesn’t get this, then you do so at your own peril! Continue reading

Workplace motivators fundamental: provide a safe and comfortable working environment

Today’s video blog continues with our ongoing series this year on effective workplace motivators.  In our last two instalments, I talked about giving employees performance feedback that was both timely and constructive.  Today’s tip, while quite different, is just as fundamental: provide your employees with a safe comfortable working environment.

Give your employees a safe and comfortable working environment

This is pretty basic – when you provide a safe and comfortable working environment, you are creating a positive working space that improves staff performance and job satisfaction.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re managing teams on a factory floor or a tower-full of office workers, when you offer comfortable and inspiring surroundings, you are tapping into important workplace motivators.

Your employees need to be safe, all day, every day. Check that your facilities are adhering to building codes and fire regulations, make sure all smoke detectors and alarms are working properly.  Equip your workspaces with fire extinguishers and first aid kits.   Once you’ve covered the safety basics, work on comfort.  Are restrooms, lounge areas, and workstations clean?  Is there sufficient ventilation?  Does the heating and air conditioning work?  Is there access to a kitchen area?  These may seem like trivial matters, but don’t underestimate how important they can be.  Can you imagine working without them? Continue reading

Yet another example of foolish short-sighted company policies!

Over the years, I have often blogged about foolish short-sighted company policies and management practices – forced ranking, archaic performance reviews, the requirement that employees substantiate bereavement leave, assuming that attendance equals productivity – to name just a few.  Well, what is really mind-boggling to me is that the list continues to grow.

Today’s example of foolish short-sighted company policies and/or management practices that is irking me: that a manager can unilaterally deny an employee’s application for an internal transfer or promotion.

Unilaterally denying internal transfers or promotions is just wrong!

Now before you start on me, I am well aware of the reasons that managers might want this discretion.  I fully understand that constant turnover in a department is disruptive and difficult.  Sure, you want employees to be in positions long enough so that they are not just making their way up the learning curve, but also around for a reasonable period to master responsibilities and make positive improvements in their roles.  I get that!

But far too often, I come across managers who hold employees back for no other reason than they want to eliminate (or reduce) interruption and instability in their own departments.  For purely selfish reasons, they block their (good) people from moving on to other favourable opportunities.  And because they have been given the unilateral discretion to deny their employees these possibilities, they do exactly that.  Ironically though, these actions don’t usually benefit either the manager (or the organization) in the long-term.  Good employees who are obstructed from achieving their own aspirations get demoralized and demotivated, and eventually just leave the organization and walk …. usually right over to the competitors.

There is a reasonable alternative

Continue reading

Top employee motivators #21: performance feedback that is constructive

In our last video tip in our continuing series on persuasive and effective employee motivators, I talked about how offering timely performance feedback is a compelling and powerful leadership tool.  But there is one additional aspect of performance feedback, positive or negative, that can make it even more successful.  And that is: ensure that your performance feedback is constructive.

Ensure that your performance feedback is constructive

So what exactly does constructive mean?  It means that you need to be specific enough so that it is clear to your employee what actions or behaviours need to be changed.  It is critical that you focus on giving your employee information so that he or she understands what needs to be changed in order to fix the problem.  An easy way to do this is to focus on facts rather than opinions.  Let me explain.

Example #1

“I want you to be more positive in our team meetings” is a statement that is based on opinion.  While getting your employee to be more positive may be the outcome you want, the statement itself gives no information about what actions or behavior you want changed in order to fix the problem.  Consider this statement instead: “When other team members offer suggestions, I’d like you to hold back on expressing your reservations about their ideas until others have had a chance to contribute and discuss further.”  This statement is based on fact.  And it gives your employee specific and clear information on what you’d like changed in order to create a more positive environment in your team meetings.  See the difference?

Example #2

Okay, let’s try another one.  “You need to be more organized” is a statement based on an opinion, and it doesn’t offer any useful information to your employee about what you’d like done differently.  But “I’d like you to keep an updated real-time log of outstanding system issues that I can access whenever I need it” is based on fact, most likely that you have faced instances in the past when you have been unable to do so.  Now your employee has information that is specific enough so that he or she know what needs to be done to improve the current situation.  I think you get the idea.

When you offer constructive performance feedback, you are providing information that is specific enough for the employee to be clear on what needs to be changed in order to correct the present state of affairs.  Many people question how giving negative feedback can be motivating.  In fact, it’s this “constructive” aspect of performance feedback that puts it into the category of powerful employee motivators.

Well?  As always, I am interested to hear your perspectives.  Are most managers good at offering feedback that is constructive?  What do they do well?  And what don’t they?  Please share.

Employee motivators that really work – timely performance feedback

Last week, in our video series on employee motivators that really work, I gave you strategy #19 – delegate effectively.  Today’s tip: offer timely performance feedback, both positive and negative.  Give your employees feedback about their performance that they can use to become better at what they do, and do so on a timely basis.  But what does timely mean?

Offer timely performance feedback

Timely means within 48 hours of you being made aware of the event.  This is important, in order for performance feedback to be effective, it must be delivered within 48 hours of the event that it relates to, or within 48 hours of you finding out about it.  So what happens if you are not going to have an opportunity to see your employee for another week?  Should you wait to deliver it face-to-face, in person?  Well ideally, in person is the best option, but if the feedback is positive, time is more important than face-to-face.  In order for positive feedback to be effective, it’s more important to deliver it on a timely basis, rather than in person.  So if you know you’re not going to get that face-to-face meeting, leave a voicemail or send a short e-mail acknowledging and thanking the person for their good work.

What if the feedback is negative?

Continue reading

Effective and powerful employee motivators – Tip #19

Today’s blog post continues on with our ongoing video series on effective and powerful employee motivators.  The last one I gave you was Strategy #18: create a vision and sense of purpose.  And today, Strategy #19 is to delegate effectively.  And the key word here is “effectively”.  In order for delegations to be employee motivators, they must be done “effectively”, which means something very specific in this context.

Delegate effectively

Often, managers tell me that I’d like to delegate … but my employees resist responsibility.  And quite frankly, they already have more work than they can handle.  In fact, the research shows that the belief that employees resist responsibility is a myth.  Most staff welcome responsibility, but in order to be successful, they also need two more things in addition to responsibility.  In order to fulfill the responsibility, they also need authority AND accountability.  And it’s in these two areas that delegation often falls apart.

Delegate authority with responsibility

Often, managers are quick to delegate responsibility, but they either inadvertently or intentionally do not delegate the authority to act to fulfill that responsibility.  Continue reading

Want employee engagement? Ensure that your people have a sense of purpose about their jobs

In my last instalment in this video series, I talked about how you can create employee engagement simply by being clear about the performance you desire from your staff.  Today’s strategy: create a vision and sense of purpose.

Create a vision and sense of purpose

As a leader, it’s up to you to create a shared vision, so that your team members can see the big picture.  To create employee engagement, you should be creating a sense of purpose; so that your employees appreciate their significance to your department and your organization.  Now, sometimes people don’t understand what I mean when I say this, so let me try and clarify by using an example from my own professional experience.

The bad

Here’s a description of what I do:

As a professional speaker and trainer, I travel to over 100 cities a year giving keynotes and seminars.  Unfortunately, I find myself spending a lot of time in airports, usually running to catch a flight that I invariably miss due to a late connection, and then sitting around for several hours waiting for the next flight.  In the airport, I often have to deal with overworked staff whose customer service skills have deteriorated as the day has worn on.  In a nutshell, they’re cranky, and as a result, often quite difficult to deal with.  When I finally get to my destination, I often find myself eating a poorly-cooked (and overpriced) meal, and then sleeping in an uncomfortable bed.  In a nutshell, I get cranky, and often difficult to deal with! 

So here’s my question – after this description, would you want my job?  I suspect that many of you would answer, “No way, Merge. Keep your job!”

The good

Now consider this alternate description of what I do. Continue reading