‘Tis the Season To Motivate Employees

As we rapidly move toward the end of another year, one thing among many weighing on the minds of many managers is completing performance reviews on their employees.

For many managers, this can be a painstaking chore.  Several well-known companies have abandoned performance reviews, instead attempting to have their managers do more frequent check-ins where they are providing coaching and feedback throughout the year.

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Regardless of where your organization is on completing performance reviews, every manager should be concerned with how to motivate their employees to perform better.  In conducting leadership classes and coaching sessions with managers who lead people, managers have asked what they can do to motivate their people as if they are looking for some special sauce, or magic potion.

The Key to Motivating Your Employees

Would it come as no surprise that there is no secret sauce or magic potion?  Here is what’s REALLY going to motivate people….show them you care.  Sound like a namby-pamby, soft, warm and fuzzy thing, right?

What I’m talking about here is within the context of what your positon as a people leader calls for –taking the time to work with your people to create or revise a development plan that takes their skills to higher levels, and helping those who have the performance and desire to move to positions of higher authority within or outside your organization.

The annual performance review tends to focus more on what was accomplished (or not) throughout the past year.  Organizations have their managers spend an inordinate amount of time on “performance ratings,” and fitting people into a “bell curve,” which groups people into three of more categories of ratings. This is where the angst and frustration on the part of the manager and employee bubbles up and is a primary reason why the performance review is so loathed by both.  It is also the reason why some think the performance review process is actually demotivating.

Motivate By Looking Ahead

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Regardless whether you are doing an annual performance review, you need to work with your people to create a development plan.  This plan takes into account their past performance, where you both want to see their future performance, their strengths, areas of development, and career aspirations.

The plan is done jointly, with a lot of input from the employee.  It can be done on a company-sanctioned document, if one exists, or written in a word document.

Start by looking at the company’s goals, objectives, and strategies for the upcoming year.  Whatever development plan is designed should link to where the company is going.

Use the competencies, a set of knowledge, skills, and behaviors, to assess where the employee is now, and where they need to be to take their performance to a higher level.  Some companies have a base of competencies that apply to everyone, while some also have competencies for each position.  If only the base competencies exist, use these.  If you have both, use the competencies for the employees’ position as the primary reference.

As competencies were being designed, some companies included suggested ways to improve performance of each competency.  There are different activities that you and your employee can look at and determine if they are suitable.  These activities can take many forms:

  • Face-to-face classroom training
  • On-line training, either live or on-demand
  • Podcasts
  • Reading books, articles, whitepapers
  • Assigning a mentor
  • On-the-job-training

The last activity, on-the-job-training, looks at what they could do that directly correlates with their job.  Let’s say, for example, that you and your employee decide that one of the areas to strengthen is effectively resolving conflict with another team.  You could send them off to a training session to get the basics, then have them immediately use the skills in working with the other team.

In effect, you are using a combination of different activities to make the employee stronger in the competency, Conflict Management.  You also help them reinforce what they have learned by having them do it.  Additionally, you are coaching that employee on the use of their skills, praising what is being done well, and pointing out what still needs improvement.

This is what motivates an employee.

This is how you show that you care about them.

This is what will drive performance

 Include development planning in your year-end review with the employee, either in the same, or in a separate discussion.  It’s saucy motivation magic!

Need help creating a development plan or coming up with activities that will strengthen competencies?  Click the link below to complete the information form on the home page.



Walter Hoff