11 Tips to Improve Employee Motivation, Employee Satisfaction & Employee Retention

Praise promotes employee motivation

[tweetmeme]The idea for this article came from a conversation I just had with a friend who works for one of the largest companies and best-known brands in the world.  Yet the company sucks at employee motivation.  If they haven’t got it figured out, then heaven’s knows many other companies are still in the dark, too, about what kinds of things motivate employees and that lead to employee satisfaction and retention.

He gave me a couple of examples that were almost laughable.The company held an off-site to reward their biggest producers.  Yet, the budget didn’t include money for lunch, which had to come out of the pockets of the attendees. Come on. Not even a sandwich and a soda?  The advertised “atta-boy” program devolved into here are your numbers for next year, with the implied threat that you won’t be at next year’s pep rally or even the company if you don’t come up big.  Not much of a motivator.

I’m not naïve.  A salary increase or bonus are great motivators. Yet, most of the tips I’m about to suggest cost little or no money to implement.  It all comes down to employee communication: saying what you mean and meaning what you say in clear, concise language.   Here goes:

1. Clear job descriptions. This may seem like a surprising first tip.  It sure is motivating to know what your job is.  If people don’t know what they’re expected to do, how can they achieve exceptional performance?

2. Chain of command. One of the Big Four accounting firms did a survey a number of years ago and 75% of the employees didn’t know who they reported to.  Tough to give a pat on the back when you don’t whose backs you have.

3. Ask employees what they need. Duh.  Hey, do you have all the tools you need to do your job?  What do you need?  How can I help?

4. Give immediate feedback. This is one of my favorites.  People are desperate to know how they are doing.  Forget the annual performance review; it’s a dinosaur.  Discuss a specific instance where the employee did well or where he needs to improve.

5. Praise outstanding performance. This couldn’t be simpler and it costs nothing.  If an employee exceeds standards, let her know.  Send an email to everyone in her group.  Make it easy for others to find out without having to navigate the company’s over-stuffed intranet.

6. Enlist employees as brand advocates. If you haven’t already, take the muzzle off your employees and let them represent themselves and their company on social media.  (See my post 7 Steps to Making Your Employees Brand Ambassadors)

7. Make employees part of the solution. Somewhere, someone in the company knows how to fix something that’s wrong.  Remember, that decisions should be delegated to the people who have the facts – and that’s not always those at the top of the company.

8. Encourage collaboration. It’s a real bummer when divisions are pitted against each other to compete for business.  This was almost the downfall of one of the major money center banks. Assemble the best client service team, no matter where the players reside in the company.  They will be highly motivated to get the business as collaborators and not competitors.

9. Sponsor friendly competitions. No, this isn’t a contradiction.  People do love to compete.  So sponsor a competition for new ideas within a profit center and reward the winner with a prize, like dinner for two at a four-star restaurant.  Or, have each employee submit a video to compete for best-in-class product demonstration.

10. Hold town hall meetings. Gather individual communities of employees, give them an update on the company and their group, and encourage conversation about how you can all work together to achieve greatness.

11. Get the CEO talking. The CEO (see my post CEO as Chief Communications Officer) can do more for employee engagement than anyone in the company.  Communicate often with how the company is doing, your role in contributing to our success, and how you will be rewarded.  Golden.

Within companies of any size, there are communities that are defined by the organization chart but many more that form organically.  Be sure to communicate the things that will motivate that community like praise for a job well done.   It will pay big dividends in employee motivation, satisfaction and retention of your star players.

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  1. Really? But is anyone listening at the upper echelon levels?

    Gave notice a few weeks ago at my regular employer of my plan to retire at the end of April. They do almost everything you suggest, NOT. Most big company executives spend the days figuring out how to save money so they can report bigger earnings to their stockholders. Short sighed at best.

    Am I bitter? Heck no! I am relieved!

    After years of trying to make it better, I went out and did that on my own and reinvented myself as a teacher, mentor and consultant in this new area called Web E-marketing. Great way to keep me feeling young and alive again.

  2. Dear Jeannette,
    I absolutely love what you and your article says and couldn’t agree more! As excellent and accurate as those 11 points are, in my opinion, the foundation is missing. That foundation is the absolute and unrelenting belief by the company leadership, that the most important and valuable asset they have is their employees. Without this belief, nothing else matters. Teach, support, train, trust, empower and communicate openly, honestly and frequently with your employees, and watch what happens. Dust off your smile because you may just be taking it out more often.

  3. What great advice! I think employee motivation changes the overall attitude within a company that money can’t really buy. Thank you for sharing!