“If you create an environment that motivates employees to turn the valve on full throttle, you can outperform any competitor any day of the week. Because when you boil it down, it’s the creativity, the longevity, the loyalty of the employee base that makes it all happen.” – Aon Consulting.
Now that is a valuable piece of advice and it comes from one of the world’s top human capital and management consulting firms. I’m sure most utilities want to motivate their employees to do their best and that some of them actually take steps to do so. But as they put fancy motivational programs together, how many of them stop to think about the impact the work environment has on motivation? Aon Consulting is right – the environment in which employees must work day in and day out is extremely important.
If you’re trying to motivate your employees individually without ever changing the environment they work in, you’re probably fighting an uphill battle. Results can certainly be achieved when working one-on-one with employees to get them to perform at their best. But much can be gained by focusing on factors that influence your employees’ daily routines.
There are a variety of factors to consider: your management team’s skills, your employee recognition program, the utility’s physical layout, your program for developing the desired skills of your staff. These factors and others shape your utility’s work environment, and the conditions under which employees work have a huge influence in their motivation to perform.
Consider the following as you strive to encourage employees to do their best on the job.
Display a clear vision of your company objectives. What are your company’s values? What is your utility’s common purpose? Make sure everyone understands what your vision is, as sharing a clear and common vision brings people together. One simple way to do that is to have your utility’s mission statement posted in every department. Better yet, give each employee their own copy of the mission statement that they can put on their desk or display on their office wall.
Continually review goals and objectives. Seeing the utility’s mission statement every day is helpful, but employees also need to understand what they should be doing Monday through Friday to support the company vision. Be as specific as possible about each department’s goals but also be flexible. Goals should be both short term and long term and should be reviewed at least once a month. Employees will function better when they are clear on what is expected of them. They will perform at an even higher level when they understand how their work contributes to the big picture.
Emphasize continuous training. Training is not a one-time event. Training needs to happen on a continual basis. The business world constantly changes and that has an impact on how people do their jobs. No one can possibly keep up on their own and that’s where training comes into play. Please keep in mind that, during training, people are often asked to change their professional behavior. But, as humans, most of us like to stay in our comfort zone. What are you doing to support behavioral change for your staff as they go through training?
Share information. If you want to enlist your staff members as partners in your utility’s success, then you should treat them like they are owners. More information is always better than less. Educate your staff on budgets, projects, challenges, trends, etc. Keep them in the know. They will appreciate it.
Make yourself available. Management should take a personal interest in their employees. Listen to their concerns and problems and support their efforts to find solutions. Listen to their ideas. The people who labor at your utility are not just simply workers. They are human beings and should be treated as such.
Provide continual feedback. Employees assume they are doing a good job if they don’t hear otherwise from managers and that can lead to unexpected problems. No one likes to feel ignored or unappreciated. Employees want to know how they’re doing. By offering constant feedback – both positive and negative – your employees will know how they are doing and there will be no surprises.
Ask employees for their feedback. As they go about their jobs, your employees see things that could be improved or changed. They often come up with money-saving ideas. But in most cases, employees don’t offer suggestions because they don’t think anyone cares. They doubt that management will do anything. Hire an outside firm to survey your employees anonymously. This will give them the opportunity to provide candid feedback on a number of issues without fear of reprisal. Use the feedback to identify the top issues that require company action. Taking action on these problems tells employees that management is listening and willing to do what needs to be done.
Reward achievements. Many managers dismiss rewards because they feel there isn’t enough money to incorporate employee recognition into their budgets. Big mistake! Rewards do not need to be monetary. The single most important reward is praise and acknowledgement. Sometimes a simple “nice job” can do wonders for morale. Still, tangible rewards are nice and have more meaning if managers identify what motivates each employee and tailor these rewards around individuals.
Empower employees to initiate projects. If you truly want employees who demonstrate an ownership attitude in their work, give them the opportunity to initiate and carry out projects. Let them give it their best shot. Above all, understand that mistakes may happen but that mistakes are part of the learning process. Employees will learn when they stumble and emerge from the experience more knowledgeable. That will make them more valuable to your utility. Allowing your staff to think and act like an owner will create self-motivated employees.
David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skill training for utility companies.