Motivation fundamentals, Part 1

I attended a seminar on employee motivation recently and I had one of those lightbulb-over-the-head revelations. Usually when we read up on the topic, it's all about how to motivate your staffers. But this seminar made an excellent point: There are six factors you need in place before you even start to think about how to motivate a person. Without these fundamentals, your motivation attempts will fail. It's like spending all your time concentrating on how to drive a car, not realizing the gas tank is empty.

This week we'll cover the first three fundamentals, with the final three following next week. Before you take a step further on your motivational efforts, check out these three elements.

See if they exist in your department, and if they don't, think about how you can introduce them.

* Open communication. If your employees don't think you communicate openly with them, they're unlikely to be moved by your motivational attempts. How can you motivate people who think you never give them enough information? For instance, if you have an open door policy, is your door really open all the time? How often do you communicate with your employees - as a group and individually? Think about how and when you communicate with them. Do you share as much information as you can regarding projects, your department and the company in general? Especially in precarious economic times like this, sharing as much information as possible will earn your employees' respect.

* Safety. This covers not only physical aspects of your office and its surrounding environment, but also job security. Do your employees feel safe in their jobs? Do they know how you regard their job performance? Regular reviews and frequent feedback will let employees know what you think of their performance and any areas in which they need improvement. Such communication will keep good performers from thinking they could get sacked at any time for performance-related issues. In regards to layoffs due to business realities, you can only do so much.

However, keeping them up to date with all the information you can will make them feel informed.

* Commitment. How committed are you to the path you're asking your employees to take? Do you set departmental and individual goals for your staff? Do you support them not only in work- related efforts, but also in other areas such as flex time, training and education, and time off? Showing that you care about your employees not only in business, but in life, can only strengthen your working relationship and your department's foundation.

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