Your kind of staff
A motivated workforce helps make your business a success, says Steve Tarr.
How important is a happy employee for a successful business?
There is a clear link between motivated employees and good customer service – very rarely do you find demotivated staff giving good customer service.
Whenever we are asked to develop a customer service culture within organisations, we always start by establishing the motivational levels of the staff – this will guide us on what issues to address within the organisation before any basic standard customer service training takes place.
What motivates employees?
In our management development programmes 30 years ago, we used to talk about all the different approaches to motivating people – in the past five years, we have made this part of our development programmes much simpler. We start by asking the managers who are being developed to list what motivates and demotivates them. We then share everyone’s lists – the lists are always very similar. We then ask them to list what they believe motivates and demotivates their staff. They then share their lists and again the lists are very similar.
The key is when we ask them to compare the list of what motivates them with the list of what they think motivates their staff and they see those lists are also very similar. This totally supports the belief that motivating of people starts with treating people as you wish to be treated. For some reason, some forget this very simple basic principle. Motivation is not a single shot event – it is a series of consistent management behaviour that will eventually encourage consistently motivated teams and individuals.
Does motivation go beyond a generous paycheck?
Motivation is about ensuring employees are clear as to what their accountability is, clear how they are measured, feel appreciated, feel recognised, feel their role has a purpose, giving everyone a clear direction, involve people and communicate to everyone in an honest, open fashion.
Is motivation also based on trust between employer and employee?
Yes, this is where people need to know their authority bands and whether they have the room to carry out their job and achieve their level of accountability.
Can motivation and a sense of responsibility coexist?
Very much – most people are motivated when their potential is exposed, when they are given that special project or that extra responsibility for a particular project.
How does an employer earn employee trust?
Again, some people really make huge mistakes in this area. This starts with never promising what you cannot deliver, being honest and transparent, being fair but firm and showing leadership qualities
Trust is based on personal relations. Yet while personal relations are easy to maintain in a small business, it is difficult for employers employing hundreds to take personal interest in every one of their employees. How is this hurdle bypassed?
This falls on to the quality of the management down the line. This is why it is so important to ensure that morals, principles and values are developed and communicated within large organisations – sometimes far too much attention is spent on management skills and not enough time on what culture we are trying to develop.
Beyond employer-employee relations, what other elements are a source of motivation?
Working conditions are one of the key strands to motivated staff – this is clear from staff attitude surveys which we have run over the years and which highlight the importance of elements such as uniform quality and style, office environment, kitchen facilities and training.
One of our clients purchased new vans for their delivery men – the vans were really nice and looked great but they did not have air conditioning. This demotivated the delivery staff, especially since the sales staff as well as the managers had air conditioning in their cars. This incident shows how the opportunity to motivate the delivery people was totally lost thanks to a short-sighted policy and a seemingly cost saving exercise.
Another example is when one of our clients invested a lot of money in us to conduct a long-term development programme but tried to reduce the costs of the venue and food quality. The end result was that the staff immediately saw that their training was being held in a poor quality venue, whereas the management development training was being held in wonderful conditions. The end result was of the staff feeling they were being unfairly treated and the cost saving ends up costing the company in demotivated staff.
How much does a lack of motivation in employees cost a business?
This is impossible to calculate, but it is clear to see in many organisations. A demotivated workforce will not pay attention to waste as they should do, become negative towards poor housekeeping, are not as attentive to customers as they should be, and will not go that extra mile.
During our customer service training we tell a true story of a car hire company in UK which offers an excellent level of customer service. When I land at a UK airport – which I do every two weeks and have done so for 30 years – for the past four years I have used a new car hire company than the one I had used for the previous 26 years. When I get to the car hire desk at the airport I am always greeted with a smile and handshake and the member of staff introduces themselves by name. They check me in very efficiently. I am then shown to my bus to take me to car hire compound. The bus driver gets off the bus and introduces himself to me, takes my luggage and loads it on the bus for me. When we arrive at the car hire compound I am greeted by another member of staff and they introduce themselves to me. I am offered coffee or refreshments and while I am signing the relevant paperwork my car arrives with my luggage in the boot. I am then shown to the exit barrier where another member of staff signs me out and asks me, “You have been served by George at check in, Harry your bus driver and Sidney your greeter – can I ask you how you found the quality of our service?”
This consistent level of service has been like this for over four years. It’s no surprise that the company invests in training – they focus on how to motivate their staff on a consistent basis. They do not pay the highest salaries, they are in one of the most competitive markets at the airport and yet they have managed to achieve a highly motivated workforce who clearly go that extra mile. This just does not happen by chance – it takes management to take ownership of how they manage their people that causes this behaviour to become a culture
As a trainer with years of valuable experience, how do you motivate people during training?
The first principle we use is to empathise with all the delegates – we seek their thoughts, feelings and views. Everyone needs a purpose to learn. How often do we hear that people have gone through their school years not motivated to learn and in fact by their own admission wasted that opportunity, then they get a job and need to be trained and they become motivated to learn and suddenly their whole attitude changes motivational levels are increased and the hunger to learn reaches heights that in the past were seen to be unachievable in this individual.
Our delivery methods are very different – we use three or four flip charts instead of Power Point. We also involve the participants in most of the session – they see their views and thoughts put on to the flip charts. We also hold many syndicates and shape the content around the feedback from the delegates – people must feel special even in a group of 10 delegates.
Steve Tarr is Founder and Managing Director of Mdina Partnership, the boutique training, development and management consultancy company with offices in Malta, UK, Germany and USA.