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How Top Managers Motivate & Energise Employees

Why is it so hard to motivate and energise a workforce?

From hitting targets to dealing with clients, managers have a difficult and demanding job  at the best of times.

One of a manager's primary responsibilities - and one of the most frustrating - is continually motivating and energising an ever-evolving workforce. Failing to effectively tackle this crucial element of management can lead to an ineffective team that's unable, or unwilling, to meet important  business targets.

In this white paper we'll look at how top managers motivate their team, examining a range of tips and techniques aimed at helping you keep healthy, happy and energised employees.

Got to dash?

No problem, here are 5 key snippets from our white paper:

  1. Understand what demotivates your employees, and make a commitment to removing as many of these elements as possible
  2. Keep your expectations of your team, and the promises you make to them, realistic and attainable
    Recognise team members when they do a good job; small rewards can go a long way
  3. Take a personal approach with your employees; ensure they feel they can communicate with you honestly and openly by instigating an 'open door'  policy
  4. Nurture an entrepreneurial atmosphere throughout the business; encourage new ideas, collaborations and open forums where team members can express their  creativity

Understanding demotivation

How can you avoid demotivating your team from the offset?
Efforts to energise your team members can breed resentment and further demotivate your employees if they aren't implemented properly. To fully engage your team, it 's important you understand why your employees feel demotivated or  underappreciated.

  • Lack of progression and too many promises
    A lack of career progression is a common employee complaint and a source of demotivation, especially for those who feel they're not being properly recognised. As a manager, it's your responsibility to ensure suitable applicants are able to move forward professionally, and that those doing a good job do not go unrewarded.

    Many managers take the 'carrot and stick' approach to their employees, not delivering rewards when they're warranted and being overly harsh on underperforming team members. This can be an effective way to motivate employees, but it can be a very dangerous technique. Applied incorrectly, this approach can create an unhealthy work atmosphere from which you may not recover.

    Setting realistic expectations and attainable goals can keep you from being too tough on your employees. Similarly, be careful of making too many promises when you're setting goals - particularly if you may find it difficult to keep these promises.

  • Ineffective management
    When an employee leaves a company, it 's often thought to be for personal reasons, a better offer elsewhere or because  they simply didn't like their job. Whilst these can be valid assumptions, studies find 75 per cent of people leaving their posts voluntarily quit their bosses, not their jobs.

  •  Poor relationships with colleagues
    Team members' working relationships with their peers can also be a source of demotivation. Managers overlook this at their peril, as poor relationships with colleagues can create an uncomfortable work environment for employees and lead to a complete lack of collaboration and team-oriented engagement. To overcome this, managers should work with HR counterparts to introduce like-minded individuals to the organisation and look for ways to improve team spirit, working environment and staff retention.

  • Lack of control
    It can be tempting to seize control of your employees' work, but doing so can rob team members of a sense of ownership and leave them demotivated. If you want to keep your team energised and motivated - particularly on larger projects  -
    ensure they feel ownership and control of their output. Relinquishing some elements of control to your employees can have a noticeable and significant impact on their levels of motivation, particularly when they feel they're being trusted to do their jobs well.

  • Closed communication
    Many under-motivated employees feel unable to communicate with management about both personal issues and work-based issues. Understanding this is crucial when it comes to avoiding a demotivated workforce; a team that doesn't feel comfortable communicating with management will result in fewer shared ideas, lower levels of collaboration, a more-unhappy work environment and less-efficient problem solving.

    In order to make employees feel they can communicate with management, instigate an open-door policy and ensure that team  members are comfortable  using it. You should also ensure that when upper managers are making a decision that affects employees, the employees have a say. Keeping staff members involved in the decision-making process not only makes them feel like they have a voice, but that management is hearing and considering what they have to say. This will help open the doors of communication throughout the business, and will have a wide range of benefits - including improved employee motivation.

  • Lack of recognition
    It's worth remembering the importance of recognising team­ members when they do a good job. In many cases, managers attempt to motivate staff with monetary incentives and large, often unattainable rewards, only to be met with continued demotivation and a frustrating lack of engagement.

    When it comes to job satisfaction, studies have shown that culture, community and recognition are actually more important to many employees than continued financial gain. Small rewards and recognition from management can go a long way - often proving more effective in motivating employees than a monetary reward.

    In fact, a 2013 study by the Institute of Leadership & Management showed that only 13 per cent of employees said that the prospect of a payout drove them to work   harder.

5 cost effective ways for getting your team engaged

How can you engage and motivate staff without  breaking the bank?

TIP #1 Redefine the way you appraise employees

Employee appraisals can be a source of major friction if they're handled the wrong way. However, with a more personal, honest and open approach they can be a significant  motivator.

As an extension of your open-door  policy, staff appraisals can be treated as an opportunity to get to  know your  team members on a personal level, rather than just  a formal judgment
on their job performance.

Use appraisals to try and discover the career and life goals of your employees, and find out what gives them the feeling of success or achievement. This knowledge can help you better reward your team members and more effectively  motivate them.

As Bryan Shinn, CEO of U.S. Silica, notes:

"I try to treat folks as I want to be treated and I think that's one of the most motivating things to an  organisation. No matter where you are in the leadership heirarchy, if you're just  real with people it goes a long way. I also put a lot of effort into recognising the small things - you don't have to wait until someone has a major accomplishment."

TIP #2 Knowledge is power

As a manager, your knowledge of the company and experience in the industry are important assets for motivating your  staff.
Leverage these assets when you're  making decisions.

Try to reframe your view of your position in the company as a nurturer of future leaders rather than just managing day-to-day performance. You should encourage an entrepreneurial spirit throughout the team, keeping them informed of how they will shape the business.

You should get your team working toward shared goals wherever possible and demonstrate that you trust them to get the job done.

Rather than micro-managing your employees, ensure they have the resources they need at their disposal and let them get on with it - this demonstration of trust and delegation can go a long way toward motivating and energising a  team.
You may also wish to consider outlining to your employees how the company makes (and loses) money, and how team members each play a role. Taking a more open and collaborative approach can make a world of difference, and it 's surprisingly underutilised.

In fact, only 40 per cent of employees are well informed of their company's goals, strategy and  tactics.

When an employee understands how their action, or inaction, directly affects the company where they work, it can have a dramatic impact on their motivation levels and reduce wasted time in the office.

TIP #3 Set achievable KPls

Another way managers frustrate team members is by setting performance indicators that are extremely tough or even unattainable. While it may be tempting to set particularly ambitious goals for your team, an inability to reach them may make employees feel undervalued and affect their professional self-esteem - even if, in reality, they've done a good job.

Instead, set achievable goals and objectives, and scale these up quarterly or annually. This allows you to encourage growth from your team, but prevents impossible KPls from demotivating your team. You should also outline a clear plan to achieving objectives, and allow your team members to have an input  in
the creation of this plan.

Jason Rhode, CEO of Cirrus Logic, uses a similar process:

"Morale and motivation in the workplace comes from having a meaningful and worthwhile goal, a reasonable plan to achieve the goal and being able to measure yourself making progress on the plan. In my view, ensuring that we have such a vision, plan and visibility at a corporate and individual level is a tremendously powerful motivator"

Clearly communicating key responsibilities and accountabilities to your team will help ensure that employees follow your plan. If everyone knows their roles, both within the organisation as a whole and in relation to key performance indicators, they're far
more likely to take responsibility for integral elements of a project and perform to a much higher level.

Tip #4 Encourage an entrepreneurial spirit

One of the most effective strategies to keep a team  motivated and energised is to adopt and encourage a culture of creativity and innovation, as well as nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit among employees.

Introduce new forums into the schedule to help ensure your team feels comfortable suggesting new ideas. Encourage collaboration between departments or individual team members, and conduct regular micro-team meetings to foster discussion and new ideas.

Mike MacDonald, CEO of Medifast, takes a similar approach:

"The best way to motivate a team is to create a very open work environment where people have the ability to make suggestions and comments. At Medifast, we encourage a leadership style that is highly participative and allows for open communication between all levels of the organisation to accomplish business objectives. We've found that when you empower people to do their jobs within their style, they enjoy their work and can achieve their goals"

Nurturing a culture of innovation within the business can help team members feel that management hears them and is considering their ideas. It also helps employees define their place within the business and feel empowered to approach problems and objectives in an innovative way.

Kevin Thompson, CEO of Solarwinds, has this to say:

" We focus on creating an environment where employees have the opportunity to create a unique place within the
company - their sweet spot"

Adopt suitable suggestions and ideas to demonstrate to employees that their ideas are valued and innovations are being considered. Ensuring team members that management is open to change can create a culture of innovation within the business and keep your employees feeling motivated and energised.

Tip #5 Lead from the front

If you want your team to feel motivated, you need to set an example with your own work ethic and results. This gives your team something to strive toward, which can have a dramatic impact on members' energy  levels.

Lead by example every day. Work exactly how you want your team members to work and they will likely be far more open to your feedback and suggestions. This creates a more engaged workforce:

Organisations with higher-than-average levels of employee engagement had 27 per cent higher profits, 50 per cent higher sales and 50 per cent higher customer-loyalty levels.

Tips for remote employees

How can you energise team members who are not physically based on the office?
In the modern business climate, remote workers and out of office freelancers are increasingly common, which presents a unique challenge to managers looking to motivate their staffs. Here are five key tips to motivating remote employees:

1. Conduct regular online meetings to avoid isolation
One of the major issues with remote employees is a feeling of isolation and a relative lack of collaboration / interaction with co-workers. With modern teleconferencing technologies however, you can conduct regular, scheduled online meetings with remote workers.

2. Use videoconferencing technology for face-to-face interaction
While it's entirely possible to communicate with remote employees via voice or text-based technologies, by utlising videoconferencing technologies you can encourage interaction, strengthen out-off-office workers' feeling of community and encourage responsability.

3. Get feedback on remote processes and how to improve them
Regularly review your protocols and technologies for remote workers, and encourage feedback in order to improve your remote processes. This will help iron out communication problems with remote workers and ensure you're keeping up to date with new technologies.

4. Ensure remote workers are kept in the loop
It can be easy to overlook out-off-office staff when you're discussing new developments and opportunities. Make sure they're kept fully up to date where possible; this encourages remote workers to aim higher and reminds them that they're valued members of the team.

5. Ensure remote teams have strong team leaders
It's obviously more difficult to monitor the progress of remote staff, ensure they're fully motivated and hitting targets. Putting strong team leaders in place to deal with remote workers - and communicating regularly with them - will help you overcome this common challenge.

Andrew Millard, Snr Director of International Marketing at Citrix has been managing a remote team for over 4 years.

"My team are based in Australia, Germany and the UK and to help maintain strong relationships and sustain high morale, we hold occasional on-site meetings and team building events to bring everyone together. Even though we work in different locations and use videoconferencing to meet on a daily basis, we still see a huge value in meeting up and spending time face-to-face. It's really about getting the right balance."


Managers in every industry and all corners of the world must work hard to keep their staff motivated and energised. With the right knowledge and protocols in place, however, you can nurture a culture of innovation and open communication within your team - ensuring your team members feel valued, content and motivated to do the best job they can. Whether you're dealing with junior employees, senior team members or remote workers, you can use the same approach to communication, progression, rewards and motivation to deliver a team of people that 's motivated, energised and all pulling in the same direction.

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