Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Motivation and Productivity.

Here at Carkean Solutions we spoke of PRINCE2 last week and highlighted many of the unique features of this project management theory. Today, we're going to discuss something that ties in with that quite tightly- motivation!

Ways to motivate staff (and just about everyone) seems to be an elusive topic. Once you have an idea or a strategy the game changes and you're back to square one.
Well, in the spirit of PRINCE2, we're going to explore some universal and generic options for motivating those staff that are at the heart of your organisation. In particular we're focusing on teams and groups of individuals but these can be used for whole organisations if you think broadly enough.

Positive outweighs negative!
While the idea of motivating your staff through fear rather than friendship may seem like an option to keep them in line, these days, more than ever, it's actually a really poor way of treating your staff. No-one will respond to this and you'll face less productivity as a result.
As the saying goes "Happy workers are productive workers."
This is mostly attributed to the fact that they will resent you if you treat them badly, resentment which will then lead to the feeling of "I don't care about my work" which leads to less productivity and poorer results- eventually ending with one miserable worker and no work whatsoever. If you're nice to your staff (which you should be- it's the humane thing to do) then you'll receive opposite results. Staff are more likely to work those extra hours, make that extra push or care about the quality of their work if they feel valued.
And nothing replaces the sense of being valued and cared about.
Being simply another numbered worker in a workforce that is penalised at every given opportunity, often confusingly so, is a terrible way to work and you'd be incredibly lucky if they didn't find work somewhere else.

Remember the "little people."
Within any corporate activity there's a number of players and together these individuals bring a project or product to life. While there will be the "pack mules" of the group who are going to carry a lot of the burden, do a lot of the work and put in extra hours- they're not the only ones.
Remember when you praise the group or organisation to evenly distribute it to everyone who is making this current project a success. All too often you hear workers saying "I put in just as much effort but no-one notices, and that guy, who does this and that, gets all the credit for everyone's work." This is both a natural human response and a valid one.
Even if you appreciate the work people are putting in at every level- let it show. Thank these people. Buy them a drink on a Friday night. Anything you can think of to show them that they're appreciated, needed and (most importantly) wanted is a good thing to do.
Again, this is because we want to show everyone that we're not "picking favourites" or favouring other positions over others. In any given project no position is higher than another- marketing isn't more important than production, as without a decent product what would you market?

Be honest and timely with workers.
Everyone likes things that go according to plan. If the morning commute teaches us anything it's that people often react rashly in unexpected situations, out of frustration and annoyance that things have changed.
Never let external factors over take your personal goals. If something changes that gravely that you absolutely have no choice but to change your approach- explain it, tell them why and try to appeal to their better nature that no-one wanted this to happen but it has, so we have to deal with it.
Also, when projecting how long we will be working on a particular project always lean to the favour of more time than less. Never, and that's a literal never, lean to the side of "well, we could have this project ready by 12th August" when it's the 8th of August and you know, barring some divine intervention or miracle, you have no chance to deliver.
Poorly executed workloads, deadlines and expectations just create tension and unease as no-one knows when anything will be done or why or where. And what kind of way is that to run an organisation?

Everyone is different- let them be.
One of the more agonising aspects of working together with anyone is that you become "researcher a" or "project writer c". Everyone is different and has different qualities, different expectations and different attitudes to work.
Some of the workers you have will love taking on a great deal of work and being the support of the team, some are the kind that help you pick up the slack and hold the group together and then there's the (negative) opportunists. In every group always identify who is the least motivated- the least likely to work- and balance the work between them and others. This way the over-achieving workers are not burned out in a short space of time and the under-achievers see what their work means.
Were you just to let it be these people would eventually segregate into three workers and three who see an opportunity to do nothing and get paid.
Equally, people are motivated by different things. There are many theories as to why, such as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs which explains that different people want different things in relation to the needs that have been met. It's important that you don't think along the lines of "everyone likes money" because, yes, for the most part, that is very much true. However, if this project manager is making £75,000 per annum- what is an extra £1000 at the end of the project?
They may wish that their hardwork is recognised and if you do they may be satisfied to know that. While, lesser paid workers may respond to financial incentives. Some may simply respond to a "Friday afternoon at the local pub" to socialise, kick back and enjoy the end of the project. Everyone differs and if you're that stuck for what to motivate people with, well, you could always ask them.

One of the more beautiful aspects about these ideas is that apart from financial incentives and Friday afternoon meals or drinks- they're free.
They're all about using what you already have to inspire people to be more productive and to show that you value them as a person, value that is simply not bought, but shown, through words and actions that shows them how appreciated they are.

In fact, you'll probably find that most workers would just like to be recognised for their contribution!

Feel free to comment with how you motivate your workers or what sort of strategies you choose to employ, if any, and what you might do on reflection.
Thanks for reading, as always!

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

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