Monday, July 16, 2012

Motivate Employees with a Positive Workplace

Note: This is the second in a series of articles I've written for Bluestone Coaching on using positive psychology in the workplace. I will be posting the rest of the series weekly.

Imagine you’re in your car.  You sit down in the driver’s seat, put the key in the ignition, and turn it; nothing happens.  You try again… nothing.  No matter how many times you turn the key, the car doesn’t start, and you don’t get anywhere.  Would you continue to step on the gas and turn the wheel?  Or would you figure it was pointless and get out of the car?  Your employees feel the same sense of futility if they don’t think their jobs are important.

The Gallup Organization found that employees perform best in a positive work environment, created by meeting certain basic needs.  Meeting these needs in the workplace is called employee engagement, and it can lead to happier customers, increased profit, and lower employee turnover.  In “A Positive Workplace Means a Positive Bottom Line,” we discussed the first two rules of engagement:  Set clear expectations, and provide your employees with the right tools to do their jobs.  The third rule of engagement is to make sure that your employees feel they are making an important contribution.

If you turn the key in the ignition but your car won’t start, you feel like your efforts are being wasted.  Your employees need to feel that their keys are starting the car, or they won’t want to keep driving.  Gallup says there are two ways to make your employees feel that their jobs matter:

1.  “Person-environment fit”
Studies show that employees are happiest when they have the opportunity to do what they do best.  The People Group says, “Full human potential is realized only when people are in a position to use their greatest talents.”  As a manager, it is important for you to make sure that the right people are doing the right jobs.

SALO, a financial staffing company, suggests constantly challenging employees by setting high expectations.  Meet with each employee to discuss long- and short-term goals, and find ways to link their personal goals with those of the organization.  Ask your employees what new challenges they would enjoy taking on, and ask how you can help them move toward larger career goals.  Communicate with them frequently to discuss their progress, and set new goals when their original goals have been met.

The National Speakers Association also recommends letting employees know how their natural talents contribute to the company’s success:  “Tell your receptionist how a friendly voice and helpful attitude adds to quality customer service.  Let the folks in the warehouse know their prompt handling of products is necessary for good teamwork.”

2.  Recognition for a job well done
Sure, you know that telling your employees they’re doing a good job makes them happy, but did you know it can also inspire them to do an even better job in the future?  Gallup found that recognition for good work opens employees’ minds and makes them think about how they can do more.

SALO says it’s important to recognize employee achievements as often as possible, not just during performance reviews.  You don’t always have to offer bonuses or gifts either, a simple e-mail can be just as effective.  The key is to show your appreciation immediately after the job is done, so employees know you’re paying attention.

Gallup found that it’s also important to customize your recognition.  Each employee’s needs are different, so make sure you communicate with them to find the best ways to thank them for their efforts.

Happy employees know that their contribution to the company is important, and appreciated by their managers.  Make an effort to show your employees that turning their keys keeps the car running, and they’ll drive better than ever.  For more information about using positive psychology in the workplace, visit http://www.bluestonecoaching.

Gibbs, K. (2008, October 7)  Motivating Employees – Make 'Em Feel Like Big Shots.  National Speakers Association Mountain West:  Articles by our Speakers.  Retrieved from
Harter, J.K., Schmidt, F.L., and Keyes, C.L.M. (2003).  Well-being in the workplace and its relationship to business outcomes:  A review of the Gallup studies.  In C.L.M. Keyes and J. Haidt (2003).  Flourishing:  Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 205-224).  Washington, D.C.:  American Psychological Association
Martin, M. (2010).  Creating a Great Workplace.  SALO UpSide Newsletter.  Retrieved from

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