How can managers motivate employees to do their best?

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 By Jack Nevison

Isn't it easy to motivate employees? If you're a project manager, all you have to do is bring a positive attitude to meetings and email daily inspirational quotes, right?

If only that were so. Recent research conducted by Gallup, for example, found that only 30 percent of U.S. workers report feeling engaged at their jobs. Specifically, only a small number say they are "involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and contribute to their organization in a positive manner."

That's not a great statistic for managers who depend on teams of motivated employees to follow through on important projects. But it is a wake-up call, and a call to action. Gallup found that this persistent lack of engagement may have cost companies as much as $500 billion in lost productivity last year. In other words, this is serious business.

Much has been written about the ways in which managers can motivate their employees. A recent piece on, for instance, emphasized the importance of assigning interesting work that fits a given employee's expertise. And in order to do so, managers should sit down regularly with team members to determine how an individual's interests align with the project's overarching goals. To summarize the point, the news source quoted management theorist Frederick Herzberg, who said, "If you want someone to do a good job, give them a good job to do."

In addition, your team needs feedback. If someone works on one task for weeks without any comments from you, the task will soon be regarded as a kind of drudgery. Managers need to stay in close contact with employees to ensure that the work is being completed and the workers' efforts are acknowledged.

The Harvard Business Review recently featured an article with a similar conclusion. One further point it made was the importance of mentoring. When you assign a task to a team member, you should also take time to develop that person's skills. This is not only an investment in the future, but also serves to keep the employee engaged.

New Leaf Project Management's 2-day program, "Leading the Project Team," will show you how to turn any group into an energized and productive team. In addition, our online QPM games and free white papers let you learn while you earn PDU credits for PMP recertification.

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