The threat of complacency is real in any workplace because, as any human can attest, complacency is so insidious you hardly realize you're slipping into it until you're steeped in it. For business owners, the obvious cure is to discover how to motivate and energize your employees. Unfortunately, as far as obvious cures go, figuring out how to do it is not always so obvious.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of it all, let's go ahead and say what everyone's thinking: money. Money is a pretty universal motivator, in terms of keeping employees around and happy. But the reality is it isn't always as effective as you'd like, and it also isn't always an option. Wages have been stagnant for decades, and economists say we may very well be in the next recession by 2020. With that being said, here are five other ideas:
1. Make Work Meaningful
More than money, workers stay at a company because their work is meaningful. An easy enough conclusion, but what does it mean?
For one, employees find meaning through recognition. More than a third of workers haven't been recognized at their work for doing work in more than a year, according to a survey from Work Human Research Institute. Sixteen percent have never been recognized, period.
In the study, researchers found that employees directly tie meaning to recognition, and meaning increased, and therefore motivation increased, when: 1. A company had a recognition program; and 2. That program was tied to core values. Employees with a recognition program based on core values were 20 percent more likely to "love their jobs" than with a company where the recognition program wasn't tied to core values.
As far as frequency goes, employees who were recognized within the last two months were more likely to love their jobs, recommend working for their company, be more engaged, and noticeably improve relations between managers and their direct reports.
2. Throw Parties
Don't confuse me for Michael Scott. This isn't an advocation of celebrating the sun rising or your car starting in winter. It's about celebrating when there's already an expectation of celebration: holidays, birthdays, a few fun theme days HR conjures, etc.
It may sound like a bit of a waste, but when a company celebrates one event a year compared to when it celebrates more than five, the feeling of belonging among employees jumps from 79 percent to 90 percent. On top of that, it makes employees feel that their work culture is more "human," as well as helping them fit in with co-workers better and improve trust in managers. It also makes employees 112 percent more likely to "feel appreciated for the work they do."
3. Define Your Culture
Not only do employees want to feel meaning in their work, but they also want to feel like their company stands for something. Mercer's 2018 Global Trends Study found that "thriving employees are (three times) more likely to work for a company with a strong sense of purpose."
In a Forbes article, written by Alan Kohll, founder and president of TotalWelneess, he says that creating your company's purpose should include a clear company vision, a focus on "the bigger picture," and among other things, frequently communicating the value and meaning of the company employees and prospective employees--whether that be a chance to volunteer, a fundraiser, or even a public statement of support for a particular cause.
This is especially true for younger employees. Seventy-five percent of Millennials say that they would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company, according to a report from Cone Communications. Two-thirds claim they wouldn't work for a company at all unless it had "strong corporate social responsibility practices."
4. Peer-to-Peer Encouragement
What you also might consider is that management doesn't need to shoulder this entire burden. And that's not from me, but from employees themselves. Work Human Research Institute's study found that 60 percent of employees say that "everyone" is capable of and empowered by providing recognition. It doesn't need to be management or executive leadership, and 6Q says that of the companies already engaging in peer-to-peer recognition, three quarters believe it helps create a positive work environment and a culture of high, motivated performance.
What would a program like that look like? It's as simple as encouraging it.
Half a decade or so ago, Google created gThanks. It's an internal tool meant to make it easier for Google employees to thank and congratulate co-workers, and it's public. Other companies have instituted employee-nominated recognition programs and the like. Lazlo Bock, SVP of People at Google, said in an interview with Medium: "Simple, public recognition is one of the most effective and most underutilized management tools."
5. Evaluate and Listen
While all of the above are likely to have an impact on employee motivation, the truth is that people respond differently to different types of encouragement. The best way to find out who responds to what and how is to simply ask them. So take a survey, learn about your employees--who they are, what they believe in, what they want out of life--and use that to make their lives better.