Merge's Blog

Tag Archives: motivating employees

To motivate employees, thank their spouses and families

This blog post was originally written in January 2014, and has been updated since then. 

GiftBasketOver the years, I have posted many times about zero-cost or inexpensive ways to motivate employees.  Each time my focus has been on ways to create a positive workplace atmosphere.  If you can secure your employees’ cooperation and loyalty, you can improve productivity and performance.

In fact, last year, in 2018, I posted an entire series of video blogs (33 in total) that focused specifically on ideas to motivate employees.  Each video was a 2-3 minute specific actionable idea that leaders could use to build positivity, productivity and performance.  But it’s always very exciting to actually see these tips in action … even better when I experience them first-hand.

It happened to me!

Which is exactly what happened to me in January 2014 when a gourmet food hamper arrived at my front door! It was accompanied by a card – “Please accept this small gesture of my appreciation for your family’s patience and sacrifice during the company’s year-end close”.  It was signed by a senior manager of the company my husband works for. What a pleasant surprise! Continue reading

Employee performance = ability X motivation

employee performanceI often address the issue of problem employees on the blog.  In the past, I’ve talked about the difference between performance, behaviour and attitude issues, the importance of articulating the problem, and the single most important question to ask yourself before you ever raise the issue with your employee. It’s always worth stepping back and taking a big picture perspective.   Let’s focus on what makes up employee performance, both good and bad.

Employee performance consists of two components

Employee performance is a function of two things – ability and motivation.

Performance = ability X motivation

Ability is the physical, intellectual or emotional capability of your employee to get the job done. Is your employee even able to do what is required in the job?

Motivation however has to do with desire and commitment. Does the employee WANT to do the job at the level and competence that is required?

Why should you care?

Why does this matter? Because you need to assess both factors when trying to get at the root cause of a performance problem. Someone who is highly motivated but at a reduced level of ability can often achieve above-average performance. Unfortunately the opposite is not always true. But don’t be fooled into thinking that motivation can overcome ANY lack of ability – the two are still necessary requirements for exceptional (or even adequate) employee performance. In my experience, you can operate tolerably at 50% ability, but anything less than 75% motivation will get you nowhere.

So what do you think? What are the minimum required levels of ability and motivation to have an adequately performing employee?

A unique employee team-building idea from one of my client organizations

Three weeks ago, I shared a fantastic idea from a client organization about a unique way to acknowledge and motivate employees – to hold “fake” retirement parties.  Well, today I’m thrilled to tell you about another great example of employee team-building and motivation from another client organization.

Monthly culture “moments”

employee team-buildingThis particular company has a very diverse workforce with people from a variety of different ethnicities and cultures.  So as a way to build understanding, to strengthen teamwork, and to have fun, their Corporate Finance team created monthly culture moments.  At their monthly team meetings, over a period of several months, they’ve showcased the different cultures and nationalities represented in their department.  Even though they’ve called it culture “moments”, it is in fact the theme for the entire meeting.

One or two employees (who are from that culture) make a short presentation sharing the background and history of their heritage countries.  They also tell the rest of the team about a core societal value and a common workplace behaviour.  Continue reading

Acknowledge employees by holding “fake” retirement parties

In 2018, I did an entire series of  video blogs (33 in fact!) that focused on specific ideas to motivate employees.  But the fortunate reality is that the possibilities are endless.  Which is why I was so excited to learn about yet another tip just last week.  I was working with a group of leaders in a client organization, and one of them told me about this absolutely fantastic idea to acknowledge employees: “Hold “fake” retirement parties,” he said.  I was so intrigued, I had to ask him to explain further.

Hold “fake” retirement parties

Once a month or so, perhaps at your regular department meeting, set aside 15 or more minutes for a “fake” retirement party.  To understand what a fake retirement party is, you have to first ask yourself what usually happens at a retirement party.  Well, there are speeches about the departing person honouring and highlighting his or her strengths, accomplishments, and legacy to the organization.  Well, the fake retirement party is exactly the same thing, but it’s “fake” because the person isn’t actually leaving.  Instead, it’s an opportunity to acknowledge employees – their worth, their value, and their lasting legacy to your department or your company. Continue reading

Blocking internal transfers and promotions is a bad idea!

Demotivator on Warning Road SignSometimes, managers deliberately and consciously take actions that while logical, create situations that are non-productive and hugely demotivating. Unfortunately, this is more usual than not.  In fact, this was the very topic of a one of my regular The Globe & Mail columns back in November 2014 titled Why do smart managers do stupid things?

I continue to see examples of this dysfunctional behaviour repeatedly in my leadership development practice.  Last week I had a very positive conversation with a group of leaders in one of my client organizations, but it reminded me of this very negative situation that I came across (and blogged about) back in 2016.  In fact, it stirred up such dialogue in this group that I felt it was worth bringing up in the blog again.

I got a call from an employee at a large client company, very upset because his manager had blocked his internal transfer.  This organization has an online internal job bulletin board that permits employees to apply for internal jobs within the company.  This particular employee had, with his manager’s knowledge, applied for a job in another department.  Since he has been in his current role for over three years, he was seeking different challenges and new learning opportunities.  The interview process went well and he was optimistic about getting this new assignment.  Imagine his surprise to learn that he did not get the job because his manager had blocked the transfer.  Turns out that there had been some other recent unexpected personnel changes in the department, and his manager felt that his move would be too much change, too fast. Continue reading

Build employee commitment by celebrating – our last tip in our 2018 series on motivating employees

All year, I’ve been giving you video tips on explicit actions leaders can take to motivate their people and build employee commitment for the long haul.  Last week, I went back to basics with “Provide a workplace that is free from bullying and harassment”.  Today, #33, happens to be our final strategy in this continuing series, so it seems only appropriate that it should be about a celebration.  Specifically, today’s motivating tip is to plan periodic office parties.  Let me explain further.

Plan periodic office parties

Your goal should be to maximize attendance for motivation value, so consider holding your office party during office hours, ideally over the lunch hour.  Plan to have them once a quarter, or even monthly.  Encourage employees to get involved in the planning; in fact, go as far as appointing each of your employees to one of the quarterly or monthly “planning committees” so that over the year each of your people are involved in one event.  Continue reading

Absolutely fundamental to gaining employee commitment: a workplace that is free of bullying and harassment

So far, in our ongoing series on specific actions leaders can take to gain employee commitment, I’ve shared a variety of ideas that range from basic to the unexpected.  Today’s strategy however falls under “absolutely fundamental”.  It is to provide a workplace that is free from bullying and harassment.  Not fancy or exotic, but unequivocally essential.  And when you do it right, the result is solid employee commitment!

Provide a workplace that is free from bullying and harassment

All employees have the right to be in a safe workplace that is free from violence, harassment and bullying.  Not only is it the right thing to do from an ethical perspective, but it is also required by law.  And it’s your job as a leader to make it so. Continue reading

Secure employee commitment by letting them annually attend a training event of their choice

In our last video episode in our ongoing series focusing on specific motivating actions leaders can take to secure employee commitment, I suggested that you let your employees telecommute, even occasionally.  Today’s idea: offer each of your employees the opportunity to annually attend at least one training program or learning conference of their choice.

Let your people attend at least one training event (of their choice) annually

When you invest financial resources into your employees, what you’re really telling them is that you value them and want to set them up for success.  No wonder then that this seemingly simple action invariably results in increased employee commitment.  And when you let your employees choose which training or conference to attend, the motivating value goes up significantly.

Concerned about abuse? It can be managed

Now I’ve heard the objections to this … what if the employee selects training that is not ideal for their job?  Or what if the employee chooses a conference that is at some exotic location that costs an arm and a leg in travel expenses?  Continue reading

When you let them telecommute, you create engaged employees

All year, I’ve been offering ideas in our ongoing series on specific things leaders can do to create highly motivated and engaged employees.  Earlier this month, I talked about giving your employees positive opportunities to interact with your senior management.  Today’s tip (which also happens to be #30 in this series): let your employees telecommute.

Let your employees telecommute

Let them work from home; not necessarily every day, but how about a few days a week, or even once a week?  Heck, even once a month is hugely motivating.  Even occasional telecommuting leads to highly engaged employees … because they view it as freedom – the independence to be productive, stay motivated and save time. Now I am well aware that there are certain jobs that don’t lend themselves to telecommuting – I mean can you imagine being a retail store clerk or a grocery store cashier from afar?  But … the vast majority of jobs have at least some responsibilities that can be done from a distance.  And in some cases, these tasks can be completed much more efficiently if they’re away from the daily distractions of the workplace.

With today’s technology, working from home is no longer as impossible as it might have once been.  Continue reading

Want engaged employees? Let them interact meaningfully with senior management

Today’s post on the blog continues with another specific idea on how to build a team of highly-motivated and engaged employees.  Last week’s tip was to organize a team-building and learning day.  And today’s strategy is to find opportunities to give your strong employees exposure to your senior management by assigning them to appropriate task forces and committees.

Give your people opportunities to show their strengths to senior management

Many of your employees aspire to bigger and better opportunities, so when you put them in situations where they can demonstrate their skills and talents to others who can also help them achieve their career goals, the result is highly engaged employees.  This scenario is a win in many aspects.  It’s a win because your employees’ professional networks are broadened, allowing them to “show their stuff” to other key influencers.  It is a win for you because Continue reading