According to a Gallup survey, only 32% of employees in the US feel engaged at work. This is a drop from the 34% that was reported in 2021. A lack of team motivation is one of the most important reasons for it.
Considering the large-scale changes the business world is experiencing – and will experience in the near future due to technological changes – motivating a team should be the primary concern of all employers.
As companies undergo fundamental transformations due to increasing competition, low entry barriers, adoption of new technologies, and disruptive models of work, employees are left to deal with greater workloads, anxiety, and uncertainty.
Unlike their predecessors, employees now have greater freedom to pursue opportunities. Moreover, they want to be with organizations that value, empower, and challenge them. They want their companies to provide coherent and achievable career growth trajectories.
In other words, employees want to feel motivated at work. If you’re a manager or business leader, here are seven ways in which you can get better at motivating a team.
7 ways to motivate your team
These steps aren’t merely about how to motivate your team. These are about how you can invest in your teams to make them more collaborative, innovative, and productive.
1. Be specific in your vision and goals
Motivating a team is about inspiring a group of individuals to rally behind a vision. For that, several things need to happen, with the most important being clarity in goals and mission. Unfortunately, this is an area where companies tend to be vague.
Some organizations want to achieve multiple things at the same time. These goals could be tied to their immediate business objectives, category trends, or whatever else their competitors are doing. With too many goals, employees can feel dispirited. It also makes them believe that the leadership is indecisive.
The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) framework is an excellent tool that will help set clear and achievable goals. Along with providing clarity, it aligns team and organizational goals. This helps managers get buy-in from leaders.
Employees will also find it easy to track their progress when the goals are measurable. When they know their specific contributions to the team and organization, there will be a visible improvement in team motivation.
2. Allow employees to be themselves
Knowingly or unknowingly leaders expect their team members to change their behaviors and attitudes to confine to the traits of the organization. This creates tension because employees feel that they can’t be their genuine selves at work. They feel obliged to be someone else, which will discourage them to be proactive.
Employees will be more entrepreneurial when they can be themselves. Since there’s no pressure to be like their managers – or the ideal employee in the system – they will have more freedom to come up with innovative solutions. Strangely, startups encourage it at the early stages but get more regimental as they scale.
But how do you encourage employees to be their authentic selves? By engaging more with them and demonstrating that you care about not just their work but holistic development. By taking a long-term view of their careers and persuading them to use their innate skills.
Such a system will also show employees that the organization cares about them. Without artificial constraints and limitations, there will be lesser tension and more respect.
3. Identify the positive traits in people
It’s easy to detect the negative characteristics of people. As a manager, you might even feel that it’s your responsibility to look out for them. But with such a critical attitude, you’re mostly looking for what the employees are doing wrong, which blinds you to what they might be doing right.
One of the primary responsibilities of a team leader should be to get their employees excited about their jobs. This means understanding their unique skillsets and positive attributes including their soft skills. This also means thinking beyond the usual job descriptions.
The objective should be to get results with optimal utilization of resources while empowering employees with tasks that naturally align with their talent. This will improve engagement because employees will be more interested in improving their skills rather than worrying about their negative traits.
Another way to look at it is to detect what matters most to your team members. Once you know what motivates them, it’s easy to get them to contribute. By creating an encouraging culture, you will also be working with your employees and not merely being their superiors.
4. Have regular channels of communication
Without clear communication between managers and employees, there will be confusion, delayed feedback, missed deadlines, and a lack of engagement. Constant communication can not only clarify project and task details but also prove to the employees that the organization respects them enough to share crucial information.
The easiest way to improve communication is by identifying team members who’re responsible for different aspects of a project and creating dedicated channels of communication. Everyone should be aware of the protocol to seek and receive information through these avenues.
Along with providing necessary information, it’s also crucial to have a system for receiving feedback. Since employees with domain expertise may have different opinions as opposed to those without adequate knowledge, regular communication will help you provide customized answers.
Open communication gives employees access and makes them feel involved. This is a sure-shot way to increase team motivation. Team members will be more inspired if they believe that they have a say in the proceedings.
5. Share your victories with your team
Motivating a team is about making them feel valued. One way to do it is by sharing your leadership success with your team members. While it may be tempting to reduce your success to your individual traits – also because popular culture is filled with charismatic leaders – it’s far more productive to share it with your employees.
A leader who doesn’t share his victories will be seen as inherently insecure and untrustworthy. That isn’t the kind of individual who will inspire trust. When they publicly share their success, it shows the team that they value the team members.
When leaders are transparent, it also allows them to be vulnerable in front of their employees. Other than giving a holistic picture of managers as individuals, it also makes them relatable to their team members.
By sharing your best moments with the team and attributing them to the contributions of the team members, you will improve collaboration. There will be a genuine desire to participate and contribute.
6. Create a healthy atmosphere
If you want to learn how to motivate your team, your larger objective should be to create a caring and positive office atmosphere. Several intangible factors add up to create an office environment that may or may not inspire employees. The key is to watch out for negative traits and intentionally discourage them.
Office design can play a huge role in team motivation. Pay attention to natural light, air quality, noise, privacy, and the overall ambiance of the space. Ensure that employees have adequate spaces to relax and mingle with each other. Importantly, wherever possible, encourage employees to give their input in office design and space allocation.
Since a healthy and well-balanced life is a top priority for employees, organizations must align their policies to be in sync with that. Offer gym memberships and healthy snacks. These healthy habits will improve performance and reduce stress. These perks also make them feel respected and appreciated.
Remember that remote employees also need your attention. Since their work and personal lives could be difficult to separate, leaders should be cognizant of their workloads. Remote employees should have specific channels to air queries and discuss concerns.
It’s also important to watch out for toxic traits and eliminate them at the earliest. Anyone spreading rumors or indulging in unhealthy competition should be warned of their behaviors.
7. Always support your team members
A crucial aspect of motivating a team is by supporting your employees. What makes this difficult is that most people may not give specific feedback regarding organizational support. They might mention communication or other issues but look carefully and you might find that what they seek is support from the leadership.
Employees will feel demotivated if leaders are inconsistent in their approach. They wouldn’t know when if at all, they can count on their leaders to have their backs. They will be afraid of mind games and favoritism, all of which will destroy their morale.
When leaders don’t support their employees, organizations will face higher rates of attrition. Top talent will leave for greener pastures and companies will have to shell out more to attract people.
Motivating a team is a full-time job for leaders. Understanding employees, making them feel cared for, and giving them a healthy and positive culture will make them productive and happy.
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