16th February, 2011

Do your staff really care?

You know the person.  They only turn up to work for the money.  They could be working anywhere.  The problem is that your donors and visitors will spot this a mile away.  I’ve worked with dynamic people who are passionate about their organisation and I’ve also worked with people who lack charisma but who really care.  Passion shows.  And I think it matters more than charisma.

So how can you motivate someone?

Leadership 101 will tell you that you can’t motivate someone.  Motivation comes from within; not from a manager.  (You can, of course, demotivate someone.)  However, you can put in place the circumstances that can enable an employee to care about their job and the organisation they work for.  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides some background on motivational theory (the article I’ve linked gives some information about how you can fulfil employee’s needs in the workplace).

Here are my top tips to help your staff care about their job:

1. Have they seen your organisation’s work in action?

I’m often surprised by the number of employees who haven’t recently seen first hand what their organisation does.  Some great managers encourage service visits, but for busy and stressed out employees this can contstantly fall to the bottom of the list.  Don’t let it.  I believe that at least four days a year should be spent finding out in detail what the organisation does and listening to project staff and beneficiaries.  Your team may know that 70 per cent of clients find a job after your course, but do they know how that client feels when they finally get a job after years of unemployment?  For some organisations – particularly large ones or where the service is based oversees – this can be difficult.  However, making use of new media by sharing videos and stories can be effective and needn’t cost a fortune (I suggest avoiding expensive professional videography and regularly upload raw footage to your intranet site).

2. Are they happy?

Employees cannot perform well at work and care about the organisation if they feel crushed.  There are various inexpensive Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) that offer support and counselling, if necessary, to employees on work or personal matters.  I have nothing to gain from recommending Worklife Support, who work with the non-profit sector.

3. Have you taken the trouble to get to know them?

Do they dabble in disco or diving?  How old are their kids?  Do they cook a mean souffle? It can be tempting to always eat lunch at your desk whilst firing away emails, but take the trouble to go out for lunch with your team once in a while.  And have a chat … but not about work!

4. Do you give detailed feedback?

A good manager will tell staff when they are doing a good job.  A great leader will tell them why.  For example, “That report is excellent, I like how you’ve addressed more than just cost.  A more reliable supplier will make a huge difference to the project”.  Oh, and the word ‘fine’ is the enemy of motivation.  If it’s okay but not as you had hoped, firstly ask yourself if it really needs to be done your way.  If it really should be better say why, “Thanks for the report, your cost-analysis is really helpful.  To make it great, I think the project would really benefit from finding out which supplier is likely to be the most reliable.”

5. Are they given the opportunity to influence areas outside of their own job?

Early on in my career, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to be part of a cross-departmental team looking at online fundraising.  I felt valued, listened-to and learnt a lot about the (then) emerging technology.  Think about the skills of your team members and consider how you could use them in meaningful tasks beyond their remit.  A caveat: only do this if they have the time.  Constantly feeling like you have more work than you have time to do is pretty demotivating in itself; to be given more is devastating.

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