Today we hosted a great discussion with culture leaders from Sift Science and Lattice on the topic of inspiring employee motivation in the workplace.
Here's our webinar recording and a recap of our favorite insights and learnings as you continue reading.
In the webinar we passed out a new eBook that goes more in-depth on some of the webinar themes we covered today, for example, what drives various generational segments, how employee motivation links to positive business results, as well as best practices from Blueboard customers running personalized employee recognition programs that inspire performance (sales incentive programs, spot recognition, and more). You can download the eBook here from our Resources page.
1) When motivating employees, your approach can no longer be one-size-fits-all
Why prioritize building employee motivation? With five active generations in today's workforce, employees have increasingly different motivators. Here’s a quick look at what’s driving them, based on research from Gallup.
Starting with our youngest generation first, Gen Z. Gen Z was raised in the Great Recession, so has a more competitive appetite then their millennial colleagues. They want to advance quickly, getting the tools and plans in place to set themselves up for success and a swift climb up the corporate ladder. They’re also the first generation with access to technology from birth. They live life at the speed of a Google search so real-time feedback becomes a top motivator.
They also often fall victim to the pressures of social media, wanting to put something online that makes they look more adventurous, happier, or cooler than their peers. So when considering your employee rewards strategy, remember that Gen Z is motivated by social currency-producing events like unique experiences, that are ripe for posting on Instagram (not traditional benefits).
Moving on to millennials, who will make up over 50% of our workforce by 2020. Millennials are motivated by a sense of purpose and connection to the company, because it’s not just their job, it’s their life! They also crave personal development, with clear paths for progression, and instead of clear dictation on where to go next in their career, prefer collaboration and 1:1 coaching from their managers.
As we move towards more mature generations, we see the need for work-life balance, job security, flexibility and benefits begin to take precedence. As retirement age continues to extend, we see the Mature generation staying with us longer. This group provides a unique opportunity to train the next generations below them, an important motivator as they leave their legacy.
Who do you see when you look around your office? We polled webinar attendees and found that the majority of attendees have a workforce with all five generations present, skewed towards millennials and Gen X. When thinking about motivating these employee stakeholders, it’s becoming clear that one size no longer fits all.
2) What's the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators?
When defining your motivation strategy, it's important to understand the two primary forms of motivation, as they both play a unique role in your motivation strategy - and depending on the initiative or task at hand, will be more or less valuable.
The first form of motivation is extrinsic, or external. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside factors affecting the employee like money, fame, grades, and praise. When people are extrinsically motivated, they’ll perform tasks that aren’t necessarily enjoyable in favor of receiving a reward (or on the flip-side, to avoid to punishment). Examples of extrinsic motivation could include: reading a book to prepare for a test, exercising to lose weight, or cleaning your home to prepare for your extremely picky mother-in-law coming over.
On the other hand, intrinsic motivation or internal motivators, originate from within the individual and relate to their personal goals or sense of purpose. When you're intrinsically motivated, you’re operating from a desire to do something for its own sake -- for example, your personal enjoyment of an activity, or your desire to learn a skill. Examples of intrinsic motivation include: reading a book because you enjoy the storytelling, exercising because you want to relieve stress, or cleaning your home because it helps you feel organized.
So how do these two forms of motivation manifest themselves in the workplace?
Let’s start with extrinsic motivators, which are often reward-based, either centered around carrots (something you want that you work for), or sticks (something to want to avoid). In the workplace, extrinsic motivation can be encouraged through initiatives like recognition or praise, whether coming from the employee’s peers or manager, or most effective when coming from senior leadership (being “seen” by senior leadership triggers the fame effect).
Additionally, the promise of career growth, through raises, promotions or increased responsibility can be a huge extrinsic motivator for employees.
And lastly, employee rewards and employee incentives. Especially ones that offer choice, are unique and relevant, and align with your company culture.
Moving on to intrinsic motivators, the main driver here is linked to our younger generation’s craving for a sense of purpose. The more you can keep mission and values top of mind and authentically woven into your employee experience, the more employees will feel connected, and more internally driven to do right by the company.
Learning and development, especially when customized to the employee’s unique career path and goals, is another great way to inspire their ongoing performance.
And lastly, creating a sense of autonomy and ownership of the employee’s work. When something is clearly your own, you nurture it, take care of it, and feel pride when it’s a success. These feelings are not the same when work is dictated down to you.
3) To motivate your employees effectively, managers should be coaches, not bosses
The most effective way to engage employees is through their manager. We’ve all heard the common phrase, people leave managers, not jobs, and although it’s cliche it’s true. Your managers are on the front lines of engagement and it’s through everyday interactions like meetings, emails, and 1:1s that they form an employee’s perception of work.
A good way to think about managers is as coaches, not bosses. Grant from Lattice shared some great points in this section: coaches are focused on finding each player's individual strengths and then bringing them together as a group to achieve a goal. Coaches also identify potential roadblocks to clear them for success, but also hold teams accountable for failures.
Grant reflected on his own experience as an IC - the worst coaches he remembered were the ones who tried to be the best player at every position. When we look back at our best managers, we think of managers that helped build our confidence by allowing us to focus on projects that showed off our strengths, while challenging us with projects that encouraged us to learn and strengthen our areas of development.
A big opportunity is for managers to to involve their employees in the goal setting process. In fact employees whose managers involve them in goal settings are 3x more likely to be engaged. Employee input on goals is really important for motivation because it makes employees more accountable and connected to their own results.
Goal setting is more of a conversation, vs. a challenge or something that creates intimidation or insecurity for employees. Encourage managers to ask their team members to set two business goals and one developmental goal, and agree upon both what is driving the business and what is driving the employees developmentally. This makes the goal setting process more of an agreement for what success looks like rather than a rigid standard for success that the employee is forced to meet.
4) Recognition and praise should be personalized, authentic, and delivered in real-time
Another key motivator is linked to recognition and praise, which fall into the extrinsic motivation category. Because employee rewards come with a hard cost, and time and resources to run effectively, we shared three characteristics of a successful rewards program, to ensure your investment is spent wisely.
Reward in real-time
Managers are empowered to reward in real-time, to immediately link the employee’s specific action or behaviors to great work. This link encourages the employee to repeat these behaviors in the near future. Alternatively, so employee rewards platforms feature points, delivered in small increments that slowly build up over time. We find that employees hoard them, sometimes taking months, or years before they redeem, which detaches the recognition moment and behavior from the designated reward. More on the problem with points-based programs from our Co-founder Kevin Yip here on the blog.
Here at Blueboard, we enable admins or managers to deliver employee rewards in real-time, through our platform in <30 seconds, linking the reward achievement to your company values or listing out the key accomplishments that the employee completed to deserve the reward. Upon receipt, they're welcome to immediately start browsing our employee rewards catalog, in most cases booking within a week of receipt.
Employee rewards should be personalized
Employee recognition moments and the rewards associated with their deserving actions should be personalized to the employee’s unique preferences. Employee rewards should be modern and relevant, and offer the element of choice.
At Blueboard, we offer a catalog of experiential gifts for employees to choose from, that are regularly updated with new experiences hand-curated by our in-house team of Curators. Once the employee picks their favorite, they're paired with a member of our Concierge team who handles their personal requests, coordinates all payment and logistics, and makes them feel like a total rockstar.
Employee rewards should be supported and authentically woven into your culture
Reward programs should be supported by senior leadership, and should be not just a reflection of your company culture, but additive to it, making it stronger than its current state. Strive to create a culture fueled by recognition and appreciation, to show employees that great work is not only seen, but valued at your company.
What we love about experiential employee rewards is that they create amazing recognition stories - photos, videos and feedback from your employees as they go out and about on adventures that help them relax and unwind, challenge their comfort zones, or try new things with their loved ones. Just like those captured below.
Encourage leadership to actively participate in recognition efforts, either by rewarding top employees in-person, or using public forums like Town Hall meetings to announce recent reward recipients and to surface memorable recognition stories.
5) In lieu of pay raises, invest in more creative professional development opportunities
Because not all of us can afford to hand out significant raises, and even if we did, frequency can create diminishing performance over time as employees expectations rise around annual or bi-annual comp increases.
So where can you focus your efforts to drive motivation, outside of raises and promotions? As Natalie shared during the webinar, the most common phrase that comes from Sift Science employees and maybe yours too is that they want to feel like they are continuing to learn and grow. This desire ties back to intrinsic motivators around setting one's own path for growth, and collaborating with their managers to define it.
Natalie shared three ideas for inspiring career growth unlinked from traditional raises, which might you choose to borrow for your employees?
The Talent Development function provides just-in time resources and ongoing development systems for employees. At Sift Science, they do this through internal designed workshops, bringing in external experts, provided 1:1 coaching, and more to invest in their people’s continual growth.
The next way they invest in their employees is through unique experiences. Natalie's ideal world would be an unlimited budget to give big bonuses and increase compensation but that’s not their reality, so they like to get creative and reward top performers with unique experiences - something a little different and special from Sift.
Examples include unexpected perks like dinner with their CEO or additional learning resources. In the same vein, we offer a catalog of experiential gifts for employees starting at just $150, that are sure to surprise and delight every employee.
Natalie's last point focused on growth signals. Sift strives to be clear that if you haven’t gotten a raise or a promotion, that doesn’t automatically mean that you are not developing or being invested in. They've established a clear perspective that there are different growth signals and managers should be communicating them in 1:1s with their direct reports.
Some opportunities for growth will present themselves ahead of a traditional promotion. Sift encourages alternative options for growth and development, for example opportunities to move employees laterally, or to offer employees increased responsibility (helping their boss' boss with a big project, or sitting in on a task force for a cross-functional initiative),
6) Encourage managers to ask powerful career questions
Growth signal conversations fall on the manager's shoulders to facilitate, but how can you get these conversations started by asking the right questions?
Natalie shared a great set of questions for managers to leverage to fuel career conversations, so that employees become more motivated to chart their career paths, and own their own goals and results.
The questions focus on the employee being asked to reflect and describe a meaningful accomplishment in their lives. This can help the manager uncover deeper motivators for the employee.
Ask an employee to think of a meaningful accomplishment, and this should be what is meaningful to them, not what other people would pick for them or what they think they should answer with. This might be something private, that others aren't aware of. These should be moments that stand out in their mind and heart.
Ask the employee the questions outlined below for two or three accomplishments. You should start to see some patterns in their stories. Why is the accomplishment meaningful to them? Were they influential? Was it fueled by creative expression? Social contribution? Ability to influence?
- What’s one experience you are most proud of in your work?
- What challenge did you face?
- What was the outcome?
- What skills and behavioral qualities did you demonstrate?
- What was enjoyable about the experience?
To help employees drive their own development through understanding their motivators, managers can work together with the employee to find meaningful projects that will not only help grow the employee, but also align with your business goals.
What did you takeaway from the webinar? We'd love to hear from you in the Comments section below. And for more upcoming events and news, stay in touch via our new Resources page - we'll be posting upcoming events regularly, as well as new eBooks, articles and research to aid your recognition planning efforts.
Until next time!