Try as they might, many organizations still struggle to move the needle on worker engagement but to no avail. Throwing money at the problem hasn’t helped.
In most cases, people feel motivated to do their best work knowing how they make a difference. Then they know they are not just spinning their wheels.
“For me, the future of work is all about collaboration,” Biro said. “Working with people who make me feel energized keeps me excited about my work.
“I also have to watch how I spend my energy,” she said. “I love working from multiple Workbar offices in the Boston area and moving through different workstyle ‘neighborhoods’ during the day for different kinds of tasks.”
Drawing from his book, Lederman summed up what people crave.
“The Top 3 cravings in the workplace are respect, purpose, and relationship,” he said. “Respect me for the work I do. Help me see the purpose of my work and how I make a difference. Doing both drives relationships.
“Research proves that people are most motivated when they have a sense of purpose, good management, and job opportunities,” Lederman said. “That allows for professional growth that suits their talents and interests.”
This is not a short-sighted solution.
“New research shows that — to be motivated long-term — employees want to be shown recognition for their hard work,” Lederman said. “Eighty-plus years of research on motivation in the workplace shows it’s the human condition to crave respect, purpose, and relationship.
“At the end of the day, it all starts with managers being good managers, earning the trust of their team,” he said. “Absent that trust, teams become disengaged.”
Smart entrepreneurs pick up on the essentials.
“The best companies I’ve worked with help their management see the power they have to strategically recognize and appreciate employees in ways that earn trust,” Lederman said.
One of the biggest corporate challenges is not to get in the way of attracting and keeping motivated people.
High personnel and background requirements can turn away many people. Retention boils down to relationships — those secure in their positions and routines versus those looking for change.
“This might sound like a joke, but Time off!” Biro said. “We’re not designed to work all the time. Really enjoying ourselves when we’re not working makes us all happier when we are on the clock.
“Being human at work is also a game-changer,” she said. “I love talking to my team in person and on the phone to brainstorm and stay connected. Gotta give the screens a break sometimes.”
Biro recalled how she still draws inspiration from her dad, “who set the ultimate example of a motivating leader.”
There also has to be a balance for a multi-generational workforce — constantly elevating and evolving the employee value proposition so it relates to all team members.
“This sounds simple, but it’s such a challenge,” Biro said. “How do we evolve as leaders as the workforce evolves?”
Management frequently falls short in employee engagement.
“Over 65 percent of managers are not engaged at work,” Lederman said. “Disengaged managers often struggle to genuinely show appreciation for good work. The best leaders can balance a focus on performance and humanity.
“Leveraging the power of recognition is the optimal way to balance both performance and humanity — if the recognition is tied to business impact,” he said. “Often, managers and leaders do not realize that recognizing employees is a management discipline. That must become a habit to maximize employee engagement.”
Forcing workers to do better also will fail.
“Motivation is intrinsic,” Lederman said. It can’t be begged for or bribed by the manager. Managers must create an environment where people get what they crave — respect, purpose, and relationship. When we get it, we are more motivated.
“These are unique times — first of our kind — with four generations all in the workplace together,” he said. “Fortunately, they all have the same cravings that cause us to be more motivated.”
Biro and Lederman tried a 10-minute challenge – proposing what they could do in 10 extra minutes a week to recognize employees.
“I’d take 10 minutes to send emails, texts and maybe the occasional treat in the mail to thank my team,” Biro said. “I also like the idea of incorporating the ‘10-minute habit’ into every day. The more you thank the people around you, the more it becomes part of your routine.
“I’m all about ending every day with gratitude,” she said.
Lederman would outline a few routines he could turn into habits. These include posting employee successes onto their company’s social platforms.
“You also could share successes in a staff meeting or in a weekly blog,” he said. “It only takes a few minutes a week to have an insanely positive impact on motivation and commitment in the workplace.
“It also helps leaders to balance a focus on performance and humanity, which makes them better leaders,” Lederman said. “Ten minutes a month equals a good manager. Ten minutes a week makes for an amazing manager.”
He and Biro talked more on this subject in a podcast.