Motivation: The Secret Ingredient That Turns Good into Great

Dear House Rules,

My agency is not large, and we can’t afford to pay huge salaries or offer amazingly generous benefits packages. However, I want to foster a spirit of camaraderie among my employees, a sense of “wanting to be here” that’s more intangible than tangible. Any ideas?

How do I get from “ho-hum” to “rah rah!”?

Dear Rah Rah!:

That’s a common challenge, especially for agencies like yours that are too small to compete with the “big boys” in the more traditional ways. However, motivation – as you note – is intangible, and when it comes to motivation, the playing field is level for everyone. Start by applying some simple principles:

  • Support Your Employees:1
    As a manager, you can’t simply sit back and expect your employees to increase or improve their output. When management actively participates, employees feel supported and more motivated to contribute to the workplace. Learn the names of your employees’ spouses and pets. If they work onsite, surprise your staff with an afternoon latte run to boost energy and moral. A positive work environment encourages employees to do right by the company that has done right by them. Bonus: happy, motivated employees will enhance your company’s image and stay for the long haul
  • Give Bonuses to Recognize Small Successes:1
    Not many small companies can afford to pay out year-end bonuses that would pay for a small car. However, small bonuses – gift cards, special parking spots, “mental health days,” movie tickets – all are ways to let your employees know that you care throughout the year. When a big project like a product launch has everyone working late nights and even coming in weekends, buy the core group dinner once the new product has debuted or the campaign has launched.
  • Stress Positive Reinforcement1
    When employees seem to lack motivation, they may simply be feeling like they’re not being “seen.” Make a point of noticing their work and referring to specific aspects of it in meetings (“Jim, the design on that website landing page really draws the user in,” “Suzanne, that CTA on the tablet is so compelling!”) Using positive reinforcement and treating people fairly are some ways to motivate employees to improve their work performances. In addition, the use of positive motivation in the workplace can show employees that they are needed and respected.

It comes down to this: workers want to know that what they do matters. In fact, national surveys over the past three decades have shown that the vast majority of Americans identify “meaningful work” as the single most important feature that they seek in a job.2 Before salary, before benefits, before commute: meaningful work.

One of the easiest and most powerful ways to add a sense of meaning to sometimes-boring work is to put employees in touch with the end user.2 For example, Deere & Company invites farmers who are buying tractors to visit the factories with their families.2 Assembly line employees get to meet the farmers, hand them a gold key, and watch them start their tractors for the first time.2 See if you can arrange for your employees to visit a hospital or listen in on some market research calls with patients to bring the category they’re working on to life. It was on one of those calls that our staff heard a pediatric patient describe the pain of ulcerative colitis as a rhinoceros ripping open his belly. From that minute on, they were determined – motivated – to put out the best creative work they could.

As a small agency with a highly engaged workforce, we at Xavier Creative House know a thing or two about motivating employees! We also understand the difference that a motivated staff makes in the final product that is handed to the client. We’d love to help you maximize your workforce (or put our own to work on your behalf), so just reach out to us via phone, web, or social media. We’d be happy to help!

Reference: 1. Accessed November 28, 2017. 2. Accessed November 28, 2017.

House Rules

Sunny Beth White

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