Engaged workplace. Positive, employee-friendly culture. Individualized reward system. You've heard all of these catch-phrases before when it comes to finding out how to make your employees truly feel inspired at work. But what does it all mean?
That's what Beth Thomas tries to figure out every day -- and the answer varies for each company. Thomas, managing director of consulting services, at Dublin, Ohio human resources consulting firm Sequent says that leaders need to build their own inspiring workplace cultures instead of following another's lead.
There is plenty of research to back up the notion that keeping employees happy also keeps them productive. But if you don't really believe that it's important to spend time and thought on keeping employees happy, it's never going to become the priority that it needs to be, Thomas says. Leaders need to look at the importance and benefits of motivating employees and keeping them interested in doing good work.
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So while exactly what will make individuals at different companies feel happy and fulfilled at work may vary there are a few golden rules that work across the board.
1. Recognize even routine jobs.
Employees are motivated when they can see the impact of their work, Thomas says. Find ways to show employees at every level how their work has an impact on the overall company. If your manufacturing line or warehouse team fulfilled a big order on time, go tell them how much you appreciate their work or buy lunch for them. Some jobs can feel thankless -- change that.
2. Reward outstanding work.
When employees do a great job or go above and beyond the call of duty, it has to be recognized, Thomas says. That does two things: It makes the employee feel valued, and it also models that behavior for other team members. “Find the behaviors that you want to cultivate and reward those in a public way,” she says. Be careful not to overemphasize one employee, as that can breed resentment. Instead, if you have an employee who consistently performs well, find a way to move him or her into a mentoring position to further cultivate that behavior.
3. Understand what really matters to your employees.
Make sure those little feel-good perks actually hit home. Thomas says it makes no sense to spend money on coffee gift cards or company t-shirts if your employees don't care about them. Instead, use surveys, focus groups and interviews to get information about the rewards that matter. For some employees, it's about money. Others are delighted at an evening out on the boss or when they're treated to lunch. Earning a half-day off or the ability to have some flexibility in work time, when possible, can also be powerful ways to keep employees motivated to perform.
In addition, Thomas says it's critical to monitor the workplace for negative situations and toxic behavior. If you find it, work with the employee on correcting it or that negativity could affect other employees and make them less enthusiastic about your workplace.