Gone are the days of just expecting an employee just to “do their job” and be happy about it.

Employees have so many options when it comes to work. Many see their jobs as more than just a transaction where they do the work and you pay them.

Employees want more and “more” is not always about more money, it’s about working somewhere that is in alignment with their core values and purpose.

Employees Are Looking For Recognition And New Jobs

A Washington Post story, said that 71% of all employees are looking for a new place to work. The main driver causing them to move is the lack of recognition. “44% believe that they are “always or often” overlooked”.

Clearly recognition is important and paying an employee a fair wage is table stakes for employee retention.

Helping Employees Set Goals Can Drive Motivation & Results

One way to motivate employees is to actively involve them in setting their goals. Employee goal setting offer give deep insights into what drives an them and deliver huge performance returns.

According to Gallup, only 30% of employees strongly agree that their manager involves them in setting their goals at work.

Employees that where among the 30% were 3.6X more engaged. Greater employee engagement has been shown to drive superior business results such as higher profitability.

Employees Respond Differently To How They Are Managed

A recent HBR article looked at a meta-analysis of field experiments of leaders managing over 30,000 direct reports.

The analysis revealed the following:

  • More empowered employees were more creative & helpful
  • Feeling more empowered didn’t boost the performance of routine tasks
  • Some employees saw too much autonomy as a bad thing in this case and were not motivated by more “empowerment”.
  • Not surprisingly, all employees are not the same. Some responded greater to an empowering boss than others.

The takeaway is that it’s all about truly trying to understand what motivates every employee. Just assuming all employees want more autonomy can get you in trouble. You cannot take a one-size-fits all approach.

Try To Understand Each Employee’s Strengths

Tools such as Strengthsfinder can help managers understand the motivations and strengths of each employee and even give direction on how to manage.

I took the test recently and found that my top strength is “Learner”. Here’s what the test revealed:

“People talented in the leaner them have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. The process of learning, rather that the outcome, excites them. Learners are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. They are excited by the thrill of learning new facts, beginning a new subject, and mastering an important skill.”

A huge part of what motivates me is learning something new. It’s why I love what I do because I am constantly solving new problems and that process involves applying the knowledge I already have and building on it. If I’m not learning it actually depresses me.

To unearth employee motivation, ask questions like, “what do you like to do?”. You may have employees in role for which they do an OK job, but is actually demotivating them.

Pair Each Employee’s Key Responsibilities With Their Top Strengths

Once you understand each employee’s strengths, take a look at their key responsibilities.

If you see that you’ve placed an employee in a role that doesn’t leverage or even utilize their strengths, look to change that. Give them projects that leverage their strengths if you cannot move them right away.

Have an honest discussion with the employee that acknowledges their strengths and your desire to leverage those strengths in the future. Just showing appreciation and recognition of their strengths can motivate an employee.

As employers and small business owners, we are entering a new era where the employee is really in control and that’s not a bad thing. This becomes and opportunity to not only experience great execution and performance for our business, but also help to develop happier and more fulfilled employees which is a great accomplishment in itself.