How to improve employee morale and motivation

Date:   Monday , September 03, 2007

One of the biggest concerns of IT executives is attrition and the fear that their top performing employee might walk away the next day. The most common approach to tackle this issue has been to organize team building exercises, create lavish pay packages, arrange dinners at expensive restaurants, or even worse locking employees with legal contracts; none of which is successful in improving employee morale and preventing attrition.

Employees decide to change jobs when they begin to feel that they are not part of the company, when their voices are not heard, and when they feel their worth is not recognized.

We are forgetting the fact that it is better and cost effective to retain the existing experienced employees than going after new employees. The market trend indicates that HR and senior managers are spending more time in recruiting new talent than taking care of existing employees. The vigor and energy spent in recruiting an employee is not shown in retaining the employee.

In my experience of managing large scale global supply chain management programs, following simple rules helped me to win the confidence of the employees and the stakeholders.

Be honest and encourage open communication:
Put your cards on the table; share your constraints and your pains. Don’t dance around the facts. By sharing your pains and constraints, you are giving an opportunity for your employees to solve the problem and hence they feel they are part of the solution. This improves their job satisfaction and they feel connected to the organization.

Involve them in your game plan: Show them the big picture and instill a sense of belonging. This can be done by involving them in planning and decision making activities. It doesn’t have to be strategic decisions but simple routine project decisions. Don’t surprise them with your decisions but let them be part of your decision making process. This motivates them more than a dinner at a premium restaurant or a team building exercise.

Connect the dots for them: Show how their contribution matters. Once the employees know that they are not fixing small bugs, doing small enhancements and fixing data issues but they are actually making a difference to your key customer or building a framework for next generation product; their motivation and commitment levels shoot through the roof.

Delegate responsibility and see them shine: Most of us are not ready to delegate. We carry monkeys on our back. Delegate, monitor, control, and coach if necessary. It is never too soon to delegate and assign responsibility. I hear too many times comments such as ‘she is not ready’, ‘I will give him responsibility after he proves himself’, and so on. Employees who are hopefully waiting to take up additional responsibility feel dejected and leave the organization. As managers our role is not to execute the task on hand but to empower our employees to execute the tasks, remove roadblocks from their path, and grow the organizational capability. By giving additional responsibilities to deserving employees you are motivating and winning the confidence of your employees. I am not talking about promotions and titles but about real responsibilities with authority to plan and execute.

Ask yourself tough questions every evening: Do you really care about your employees as much as you care for your project? Are you concerned about your employees’ career, their aspirations, their personal problems, and their hardships? Are you removing roadblocks from your employee’s path? Do you stand by them when it is really needed? Are you properly representing them, showcasing them, and giving them the opportunities for growth and learning? Are you sharing your knowledge and wisdom with them? If your answer to these questions is a no, please fix the same next morning and you will see a bright smile on your employees’ faces.

Once you follow the golden rule to treat others as you would like to be treated, everything falls in place and you would build a great organization.

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