As December rapidly approaches you might start to see things slow down around the office with people’s focus and motivation starting to drop. Keeping employees motivated is a challenging task at this time of year but it if you can continue to motivate your team through the last few weeks of the year, it can have a marked impact on your company’s performance.
It is commonly believed that motivation is shaped by rewards and that the bigger the reward, the more motivated your people will be. However, there’s plenty of evidence to challenge this belief. For example, one study gave a group of students a set of challenges and they were rewarded based on their performance.
They found that as long as the task involved only mechanical skill (e.g. completing a simple jigsaw puzzle) then rewards worked as expected with larger rewards being more motivating. Surprisingly, however, they found that once the task used even rudimentary cognitive skills (e.g. designing an advert) a larger reward actually led to reduced motivation1. Simply trying to motivate employees with rewards may not be enough to keep them going.
So how do you motivate your employees? Drawing on psychological theories can help us identify some effective approaches. Self-determination theory (SDT) provides an excellent framework for understanding how to increase motivation. It explores how we all have innate psychological needs which we are driven to satisfy. We want to continuously learn and grow so when our tasks allow this then we become intrinsically motivated and are driven to complete the task.
4 tips to keep people motivated
- Enhance people’s autonomy
Do your employees have freedom to choose the way in which they work? The more choice they have then the higher their sense of autonomy will be. You should empower your employees to make decisions. Allow them to have some choice on what they do, when they do it, how they do it and who they do it with. Make sure that you don’t punish honest mistakes as this will give people the courage to take more responsibility.
So, as you assign the final projects this year try to not get too involved. Leave the decisions to those completing the task and it’s likely that you will see a more motivated workforce.
- Ensure people feel valued
Do people feel like their work is valued? The more valued that people perceive themselves to be then the more motivated they are. Develop some short-term end-of-year goals and show your employees how their work contributes to these goals.
- Stretch people
Are you employees stretched? When the demands of people’s job match their ability or stretch them slightly, then they will be more motivated. Give your employees opportunities to develop in these final few weeks and offer motivational and developmental feedback to drive them into the new year.
- Give people meaning
Do your employees feel like they have a purpose? If people feel that there is a meaning to their work then they experience a greater sense of motivation in their role. Find out what your employees care about and give them the opportunity to work on whole tasks as this will enhance their motivation.
Use these tips to maintain the motivation in your team through to the end of the year. As a leader, you are instrumental in facilitating motivation in your employees. Have high expectations, believe in them and allow freedom of your employees to ensure that their motivation is maximised. There is a gap between what people know and what people want to know. By filling this gap you can keep your people motivated.
1 Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead Books.