The top 10 employee motivators – and demotivators

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If you didn’t hear the latest news from Gallup, here are the mind-blowing numbers about U.S. worker engagement: Seventy percent of U.S. workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.

That is an estimated $450 to $550 billion loss of productivity.

What is your share of that lost productivity pie? What are you doing to fix the problem?

Today’s employees may not need a pay raise as much as they do a personal “thanks” for a job well done from their manager. Following (in priority order) are the top 10 motivators for today’s employees, according to Bob Nelson, the New York Times best-selling author of “1001 Ways to Reward Employees.”

(1) Personally thank employees for doing a good job – one-on-one, in writing or both. Do it timely, often and sincerely.

(2) Be willing to take the time to meet with and listen to employees – as much as they need or want.

(3) Provide specific feedback about performance of the person, the department and the organization.

(4) Strive to create a work environment that is open, trusting and fun. Encourage new ideas and initiative.

(5) Provide information on how the company makes and loses money, upcoming products and strategies for competing in the marketplace and how the person fits into the overall plan.

(6) Involve employees in decisions, especially in those decisions that affect them.

(7) Provide employees with a sense of ownership in their work and the work environment.

(8) Recognize, reward and promote people based on their performance; deal with low and marginal performers so that they improve or leave.

(9) Give people a chance to grow and learn new skills; show them how you can help them meet their goals within the context of meeting the organization’s goals. Create a partnership with each employee.

(10) Celebrate successes – of the company, of the department and of individuals in it. Take time for team- and morale-building meetings and activities.

Nelson, an industry guru on employee recognition, was quoted on CNBC and Rush Limbaugh.

“No wonder companies have been looking for ways to make workers happier. One trend that has taken off is cushy office perks,” Nelson said. “For example, Google ... boasts a roller hockey rink and nap pods, among other amenities. ...

“Such benefits are attractive, particularly to younger workers. They’re often looking for things they can brag about to their peers.”

Even more challenging concerns for many managers are the recognition demotivators, or actions or miscues that lead to worker dissatisfaction.

Here are Nelson’s top 10 demotivators to avoid in order to ensure that your employees are highly motivated and productive:

(1) Organizational politics – An environment in which the competition for power, influence, resources and promotions is based on subjective or hidden criteria.

(2) Unclear expectations – Employees need to understand what to expect from a recognition program. What are their roles and responsibilities?

(3) Unnecessary rules – Keep programs simple. Too many rules mean too much bureaucracy.

(4) Lack of follow-up – Promise only what can be delivered. Deliver on all promises.

(5) Hypocrisy – Do not say one thing and then do another. Be consistent.

(6) Discouraging responses – Negative and instantaneous responses to employees’ ideas and suggestions, such as “It won’t work,” “You can’t do that here” or “That’s not feasible.”

(7) Withholding information – Lying by omission.

(8) Unfairness – Keep fairness in mind when designing a program. Criteria for qualifying may differ in various parts of the organization. Keep track of disparities – and keep things fair.

(9) Management invisibility – Managers need to stay involved and visible. Have specific jobs to play.

(10) Over control – Most employees are willing to be empowered, but few managers are willing to give them enough authority to be empowered.

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