Improving Staff Performance and Motivation through Job Design

improvingJobDesignOne of my favourite sayings in the field of people management is: If you want someone to do a good job, give them a good job to do.

As managers of people, I think it is very important that we gain a basic understanding of what truly motivates people at work. Why? Simply because highly motivated staff are arguably the most valuable resource a business owner / manager can have. Motivated staff nearly always outperform staff who lack motivation.

If you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do. The idea underpinning this sentence is simple – people are highly motivated by intrinsically rewarding and gratifying work. In short, satisfying and fulfilling work turns people on. It stimulates their brain cells and retains their interest. They’ll go home and talk enthusiastically about their work (driving their friends and families crazy) and even do extra work from home.

Research consistently shows that many people leave comparatively high paid jobs for lesser paid ones in order to achieve the daily satisfaction a good job gives them.

The key question for managers of people is: What is a good job? Fortunately, lots of work has been done to answer this question, and what is more, it ain’t rocket science. According to one of the most recognised theories in the field of job design, a job will keep staff keen and motivated if it contains four characteristics. These are:

1. Variety
The less variety a job has the more mentally fatiguing it is. People lose interest and quickly become distracted by other things. They also tend to make more mistakes. Some employers try to keep their jobs simple and repetitive because it’s easier to train and/or replace staff – then they wonder why they can’t keep their good staff.

2. Starting and finishing a job
People derive a great deal of satisfaction in seeing a job through to the end. People are much happier when they can see the fruits of their labour. They can point to a finished job and say with pride, I did that. The carpenter who designs the job, selects the wood, builds the furniture and completes it to a high standard will derive a lot more satisfaction than the person who just operates a wood lathe all day.

3. Task Significance
People want to know that what they do at work is important. We all want a feeling of contribution and involvement. As a manager of people it is important that your people understand what they’re doing has significance for the business. Giving a person a task to do and allowing that person to think that the task is trivial or unimportant is sending all the wrong signals. It can be tantamount to “telling” them that they’re unimportant and not worthy of important work. A smart manager will articulate to the person who sweeps the floors how important that task is.

4. Autonomy
People enjoy having a say in how they do their jobs. They enjoy the freedom of making decisions and having a sense of ownership over the tasks they’re performing. This does not mean you throw people in the deep end. It is important that people have the required skills and knowledge as well as an understanding of the parameters in which they can operate. Once these two things are in place you need to trust people to make their own decisions. Micro-managers (i.e., managers who constantly peer over people’s shoulders) tend to be universally disliked. They also tend to be inefficient managers.

What you can do
In an ideal world every job would have lots of variety, autonomy, task significance etc. We all know, however, that the realities of the work place sometimes make it difficult to design highly motivating jobs. Nevertheless, this should not prevent you from making changes where you can. Often, incremental changes are the best way to go. Over a period of time lots of small changes add up to big changes. Also, it’s important to explain your intentions to your staff before taking any action. Make sure they understand what it is you’re trying to achieve, otherwise your efforts may be misinterpreted as you trying to give them extra work. Above all, it is important that you demonstrate persistence. Don’t throw in the towel at the first obstacle; and get used to celebrating small changes. Do this and you will be rewarded by staff who are demonstrating greater motivation and interest in their work. Their performance will improve and there’s a good chance that your stress levels will lower correspondingly. Best of luck!

5 Things You Can Do To Improve Staff Motivation and Retention

5ThingsTN

Five simple strategies on motivating and retaining good staff

Employers often go to considerable lengths and expense to recruit great people. However, when questioned about their people motivation and retention strategies these same employers often have little to say. Given the importance of staff motivation and retention to key business performance indicators such as customer service, quality control, productivity levels and corporate memory it is important that you, as a manager of people, have a well constructed and effective people motivation and retention strategy in place.

Notice that I’m using the words motivation and retention in the same sentence. It is important to understand that the two are, in fact, inseparable when it comes to retaining good staff. Why? Simply because if you keep your staff motivated and interested in their work you significantly increase your chances of keeping them. In short, motivated staff tend to enjoy their work and therefore do not want to leave as much as unmotivated staff.

Also, you may be in a position where you don’t have staff retention problems, but your staff are not as motivated or keen as you would like. The most effective businesses not only retain good staff but the staff they have are highly motivated to do a good job.

What is more, staff motivation relies very little on money including bonuses and pay for performance schemes. As long you’re paying your people an amount that is comparable to market rates money should not enter the equation.

Importantly, there are two pieces of very good news. The first is that implementing such a motivation and retention strategy is not difficult. You don’t need a degree in psychology or organisational development to implement a simple but effective strategy. Much of it relies on good old common sense and universal principles governing human relations.

The second piece of good news is that a staff motivation and retention strategy does not have to cost you big dollars. In fact, it will save you significant amounts.

What follows is a user friendly, 5 point plan to achieve higher levels of staff motivation and retention. The more of these points you can implement the better off you will be.

Point 1 Keep simple statistics on how many people leave, when they leave and why

Keep simple statistics on your staff turnover and the reason people are leaving. This information will eventually prove a great source of information allowing you to better target your actions. Graphs are great because they’re easy to follow. You should be keeping statistics on the following:

• Your annual turnover of staff

• If you employ over 100 people you may also want to keep a monthly record of turnover. Monthly staff turnover graphs can quickly reveal patterns in seasonal turnover. If, for example, you notice a rise in turnover during certain months of the year you may be able to take preventative action for the next time.

• Why people leave. Design a simple Exit Interview and insist that all staff who leave fill it out just before they leave. Whilst not foolproof, exit interviews give you a much better insight of why people are leaving. It is important that the exit interview is designed and implemented properly, otherwise you may get misleading information (see The Recruitment Alternative’s article on what a good exit interview looks like, you’ll find it in the HR Information for Employers page).

• Keep statistics on the most common reasons people are leaving your company.

Point 2 Ensure that your managers including yourself receive training on how to manage staff

• A common mistake many companies make is promoting good staff to a management position without giving them the required training. As you probably know, managing staff can be a very challenging duty. It takes some people years to do it properly. To thrust a person into a management position without the proper training is asking for trouble.

Point 3 Set up staff feedback surveys. Give staff the opportunity to safely (anonymously) let you know what they think about matters that are important to them.

• Do these surveys every six months and make sure you follow up. Let staff know that you’ve read their issues and what you’re going to do about them. The worst thing you can do is keep silent about the results. It is important that staff feel safe about providing honest feedback. If they can be identified chances are that they will only tell you what they think you want to hear.

Point 4 Always implement the Golden Rule: Treat staff with the utmost dignity and respect

• Dignity and respect means things like:

o Praising staff when they deserve it
o Always be open and honest with them
o Never raise our voice to staff
o Never embarrass or humiliate staff
o At all cost avoid creating the impression that you have favourites because the non-favoured will feel excluded and like second class citizens
o Always do what you say you will do
o Be prepared to admit your mistakes

•Even if your staff make mistakes, that’s no excuse to talk down to them or belittle them. If you think about it, there’s a good chance that you’re partly responsible for their mistakes.

Point 5 Try as much as possible to give your staff work that is interesting

•Repetitive work with little variety should be avoided as much as possible. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid such work, however, try to spread it amongst staff so no one is stuck with all of it. Work that brings out the best in people includes the following characteristics:

o Variety
o Autonomy
o Task Significance – which means people feel that what they do is important
o Feedback – people want feedback on their work, either by way of a manager giving them feedback or by being able to start and finish a job and being able to take pride in their work. In the latter case the completion of a good job is the feedback.

One of my favourite sayings

goodjobOne of my favourite sayings in the field of people management goes like this: If you want someone to do a good job, give them a good job to do. I still remember the powerful impression this simple sentence made on me when I first came across it years ago when I was learning about what motivates people in the work place.

As managers of people, I think it is very important that we gain a basic understanding of what truly motivates people at work. Why? Simply because highly motivated staff are arguably the most valuable resource a business owner / manager can have.

But before we go any further let’s finally put to rest one of the great myths in the modern workplace, i.e., that money is the key motivator. Unfortunately, many managers still labour under the belief that if they pay their people enough money they’ll be highly motivated and perform wonderfully. If you’re one of these managers then chances are that you’re overpaying your staff and still not getting the performance you’d really like. I would be a truly rich man if I were given a penny for all the times I’ve heard frustrated managers express dissatisfaction about their staffs’ performance despite paying them above market rates.

I’m not arguing that money isn’t important. We all know it plays an important role in attracting and retaining the right people. But attracting and retaining people is not the same as keeping them motivated and enthusiastic about their jobs. The key to a great employee is not just their skill and experience levels, but how willing they are to come to work and how motivated they are to do a good job. If you’re relying on just money, then chances are you’re experiencing problems.

Back to our saying: If you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do. The idea underpinning this sentence is simple – people are highly motivated by rewarding and gratifying work. In short, satisfying and fulfilling work turns people on. It stimulates their brain cells and retains their interest. They’ll go home and talk enthusiastically about their work (driving their friends and families crazy) and even do extra work from home.

Research consistently shows that it is not uncommon for people to leave a relatively highly paid job for a lesser paid one in order to achieve the daily satisfaction a good job gives them. Here’s what Frank Greer said about his job:

Everyday was the same thing…Put the right passenger seat into Jeeps as they came down the assembly line, pop in four bolts locking the seat frame to the car body, and then tighten the bolts with my electric wrench. Thirty cars and 120 bolts an hour, eight hours a day. I didn’t care that they were paying me $17 an hour. I was going crazy. I did it for almost a year and a half. Finally, I just said to my wife that this isn’t going to be the way I’m going to spend the rest of my life. So I quit. Now I work in a print shop and I make less than $12 and hour. But let me tell you, the work I do is really interesting. It challenges me! I look forward every morning to going to work again. *

The key question for managers of people is: What is a good job? Fortunately, lots of work has been done to answer this question, and what is more, it ain’t rocket science. According to one of the most recognised theories in the field of job design, a job will keep staff keen and motivated if it contains four characteristics. These are:

1. Variety
The less variety a job has the more mentally fatiguing it is. People lose interest and quickly become distracted by other things. They also tend to make more mistakes. Some employers try to keep their jobs simple and repetitive because it’s easier to train and/or replace staff – then they wonder why they can’t keep their good staff.

2. Starting and finishing a job
People derive a great deal of satisfaction in seeing a job through to the end. People are much happier when they can see the fruits of their labour. They can point to a finished job and say with pride, I did that. The carpenter who designs the job, selects the wood, builds the furniture and completes it to a high standard will derive a lot more satisfaction than the person who just operates a wood lathe all day.

3. Task Significance
People want to know that what they do at work is important. We all want a feeling of contribution and involvement. As a manager of people it is important that your people understand what they’re doing has significance for the business. Giving a person a task to do and allowing that person to think that the task is trivial or unimportant is sending all the wrong signals. It can be tantamount to “telling” them that they’re unimportant and not worthy of important work. A smart manager will articulate to the person who sweeps the floors how important that task is.

4. Autonomy
People enjoy having a say in how they do their jobs. They enjoy the freedom of making decisions and having a sense of ownership over the tasks they’re performing. This does not mean you throw people in the deep end. It is important that people have the required skills and knowledge as well as an understanding of the parameters in which they can operate. Once these two things are in place you need to trust people to make their own decisions. Micro-managers (i.e., managers who constantly peer over people’s shoulders) tend to be universally disliked. They also tend to be inefficient managers.

What you can do…
In an ideal world every job would have lots of variety, autonomy, task significance etc. We all know, however, that the realities of the work place sometimes make it difficult to design highly motivating jobs. Nevertheless, this should not prevent you from making changes where you can. Often, incremental changes are the best way to go. Over a period of time lots of small changes add up to big changes. Also, it’s important to explain your intentions to your staff first. Make sure they understand what it is you’re trying to achieve, otherwise your efforts may be misinterpreted as you trying to give them extra work.  One great idea is to seek your staffs’ opinions about how you can make jobs more interesting whilst not jeapordising efficiency and quality.

Above all, it is important that you demonstrate persistence. Don’t throw in the towel at the first obstacle; and get used to celebrating small changes. Do this and you will be rewarded by staff who are demonstrating greater motivation and interest in their work. Their performance will improve and there’s a good chance that your stress levels will lower correspondingly. Best of luck!

* Source: Organisational Behaviour, Concepts, Controversies and Applications; Stephen P Robbins, Terry Water-Marsh, Ron Cacioppe and Bruce Millett, Prentice Hall, 1994.