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Find Creative Ways to Motivate Employees

Talent managers must continuously motivate and inspire employees in order to get them to realize their full potential. Here are a few creative ways to do so that can yield positive business results.

November 25, 2009
Related Topics: Mentoring, Technology, Learning and Development
Talent managers must continuously motivate and inspire employees in order to get them to realize their full potential. There are a number of creative approaches to do so that can yield positive business results.

1. Ask newcomers to observe the organization and learn about its values by finding examples of behavior representing them. The traditional approach to welcoming newcomers has been to organize an induction course during which new employees can learn about the mission, vision, goals and values of the organization; they will also likely be told a few stories exemplifying desired workplace behavior. While that is certainly an option, better motivational impact can be achieved by involving new joiners in participant observation and asking them to come up with their own examples of behavior exemplifying the values of the organization. It goes without saying that the organization should live out its values for this approach to work, as any inconsistencies between the declared and the actual will quickly become apparent.

2. Provide positive and negative feedback instantly; use performance reviews to emphasize only the positive feedback. Traditionally, performance reviews have been designed so as to provide balanced feedback. However, experience shows that this often leads to employees spending more time on the negative feedback they receive, as it is typically more detailed. Thus, a reviewee often leaves such a meeting thinking about his or her past failures rather than being inspired. To avoid this, focus only on the positive feedback during performance reviews. One way to do this is by bringing up a few examples of recent situations in which the performance of the reviewee has been truly outstanding and encouraging him or her to replicate them in the future. Critical feedback — as well as praise, of course — can be delivered instantly throughout the year. This approach will not yield results when managers are dealing with below-average performers, though.

3. Encourage people to improve further on their strengths; focus less attention on their relative weaknesses as long as they don’t jeopardize minimum performance standards. A common approach has been to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each person and then encourage them to maintain their strengths and improve on their weaknesses. While there is certain logic behind this approach, it has a negative impact on motivation, as people start spending more time improving on their weaknesses than on continuing to develop their strengths. In the long run, it might even breed mediocrities — people who are relatively good at many things, but not really excellent at anything. A more motivating approach is to require people to improve further on their strengths, to become outstanding with respect to some competencies and just establish a minimum performance threshold with regard to the others. Another tactic is to team up people so that their competency profiles complement each other. For example, a great salesperson who isn’t proficient at doing administrative work could be paired with an administrative assistant.

4. Actively nurture relationships with former colleagues who have left the organization by establishing an “alumni association.” Usually managers at best quickly forget about former colleagues who have chosen to continue their careers outside the organization and at worst try to downplay their past contribution or point out their weaknesses behind their backs. This has a negative impact on the motivation of the remaining people, who often have developed good relationships with their former colleagues. It might also indicate that team-building efforts actually lack sincerity. Besides avoiding these types of negative effects, actively nurturing relationships with former colleagues might also be beneficial for the organization in the future.
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