15 ways to motivate and influence employee behaviour faster

Mark Holmes

“Over the past twenty plus years, and after conducting over 600 employee focus groups and individual interviews of more than 2,000 people, I have identified a list of successful ways to motivate people to perform at higher levels of customer service, quality, sales and other key metrics. Certainly, there are additional ways to motivate and inspire employees; however, these principles are among the most essential.”  - Mark Holmes

1. Highly value each individual’s role or contribution, no matter how inconsequential it may seem to the bigger picture. Knowing how one’s role contributes to the organization’s overall success is a key longer-term motivator and morale builder. As the manager, you should regularly reinforce “role importance” with each employee on your team.

2. Accurately match the employee’s skill set with the right job. There is little chance an employee will get motivated for very long, or have the inclination to perform at higher levels if they are not placed in the right job. You can utilize hiring and skills assessment tools to make more accurate fit-for-job decisions.

3. Expectations must be made crystal clear. Employees must know your organization’s values as well as your expectations in fulfilling those standards or values. Studies indicate that organizations with clear, high standards outperform those without. This factor is undervalued in too many companies. Consequently, this is largely unrecognized among more seasoned managers—as well as new managers or supervisors.

4. Deal aggressively and promptly with poor performers —or you will destroy the motivation and drive of your better performers! One study found that 50% of employees believed that their manager was too tolerant of poor performers. It’s a killer to employee morale and negates virtually any improvement initiatives whenever a manager sees underperformance but looks the other way.

5. Consistently reward and affirm employees for performance that fulfills your expectations. Don’t wait until something’s perfect before you mention it. People respond positively to a manager that gives well-deserved praise, expresses appreciation, or gives consistent encouragement – it tells them that their efforts were noticed and appreciated.

6. Consistently correct for behaviour that falls short of your expectations by giving helpful employee performance reviews. This is an area of common and serious dissatisfaction among employees, and the secret to effective employee reviews is not as difficult as it may seem.

7. Grant as much decision-making authority or autonomy as possible in each position or job. By far, most people want and are motivated by the autonomy to do their job (within the guidelines) as they see necessary. You can grant more autonomy or work independence through successful delegation, increasing decision making rights or assigning temporary special projects. The benefits you’re likely to notice are increased levels of creative problem solving, a greater sense of urgency and higher morale.

8. Seek out and ask for opinions and ideas. The four most motivating words are, “What do you think?” Everyone likes to feel a part of something bigger than them. You can help your employees feel greater ownership by making them an active part of your strategies or planning.

9. Don’t leap to conclusions about a lapse in an employee’s performance, or what’s possibly behind the motives of an abrupt attitude change. On the surface, or at first glance, an employee’s performance or behaviour may create real stress for you. It’s always a good idea to open dialogue with someone first, inquire as to what’s going on, or learn more about why they did/didn’t take a particular action when you thought they understood your expectations. Taking sudden action before finding out the real reasons can lead to harming the trusting relationship you’ve worked hard to build.

10. Be accessible and approachable. Employees will be motivated when you make an effort to be available, return their calls promptly and come across as approachable. Knowing you are there to support and get them the help they need, to the best of your ability, is motivating.

11. Take an active interest in the success and well-being of each person under your supervision. People need to know that you want them to succeed; moreover, that you will take an active role in checking in on their progress and will do whatever you can to help them reach their goals.

12. Raise the bar.Good managers fix things and watch over the bottom-line or budget with a close eye for detail. But great managers do that too, plus, they raise the bar for people. Keeping your employees motivated and inspired to reach greater results is made possible when you raise expectations or set new goals, create a sense of urgency, as well as provide essential resources and training people will need to achieve goals at excellent levels.

13. Measure everything. Many organizations fail to measure the most important activities to their company, such as: not measuring closing ratios of salespeople; failing to regularly measure customer service or customer satisfaction levels, job satisfaction levels by department and levels; and not measuring leadership or supervisory effectiveness through candid employee surveys. These are just a few of the critical areas every organization should regularly monitor. People need clear guidelines, but it’s just as vital to know that everyone will be held accountable to achieving the work-related goals or standards, and that means measurement.

14. Maintain strong communications with people. Poor communications is one of the three most common weaknesses for every organization. Keeping people informed is key to them having a sense of belonging and individual importance—and excellentemployee communications are key to employee motivation as well as achieving consistent levels of high performance. Failing to keep people adequately informed about the company’s goals, progress or results will produce a general sense of unnecessary alarm, and increase rumours.

15. Provide sufficient training or resources for high performance to occur. Studies point out that organizations which invest disproportionately higher in employee training have lower turnover and perform better than the general market. Almost any organization today, no matter its size, can afford online training options, mentoring and individualized coaching.

Reprinted with the permission of Mark Holmes. Holmes helps companies increase sales, service and employee performance. He utilizes twenty-four years of experience advising, training, and coaching some of America’s most successful small and large companies. His ideas on employee retention, sales and customer service have been widely featured in major national media like FOX, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, BNET and The Wall Street Journal. Mark can be reached at [email protected]


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