Staff motivation schemes can be extremely effective way to encourage employees to surpass targets, work better as a team or develop citizenship behaviours at work, such as supporting colleagues, but only if run correctly. But beware, if they are run badly they can be demotivating and cause friction.
A lot of staff motivation programmes tend to sit somewhere in the middle of successful and poor, so here are five simple rules for making sure that your motivation scheme gets the results that you and your business are looking for.
1. Tie targets to business goals
Whether you’re starting afresh or re-evaluating an existing programme, you should start by aligning the goals of the motivation scheme with your business goals. These targets and goals can be directly related to financial and productivity achievements, such as hitting sales or production targets, but also include other goals related to citizenship behaviours and business culture. For example, be sure to recognise staff for attaining targets based customer feedback on the service provided, quality levels or going out of their way to support a colleague or help them to resolve a problem.
2. Keep it simple
Keep the targets needed to receive an award simple and easy to understand. If they are too complex your employees will find them difficult to translate them into actions. This can be demotivating and demoralising. Ideally each target should be able to be expressed as a single, short sentence.
3. Set realistic targets
In order to get the best out of your staff motivation scheme you need to set realistic goals and make sure that those goals are directly related to your employees’ contribution. Tying targets and awards to factors outside your employees’ control, such as the stock market price will only demotivate your staff.
In addition, stretch goals can also demotivate as employees can feel that they are out of reach and unachievable. It won’t encourage the desired behaviours that you are using the motivation programme to reinforce.
The best way forward is to set realistic goals that are measured on a regular basis, reinforced by quarterly tactical promotions that put short-term rewards within reach. Then finish your financial year on a high with a very desirable reward that is not only within reach of top performers, but also those ‘most improved’ employees.
4. Keep it timely
To encourage key behaviours you want to see in your employees you need to closely link the behaviour and the reward. In practical terms this means rewarding your employees for meeting or surpassing their targets or goals as close as possible to the event. Rewarding employees weeks and even months later reduces the impact of the reward and the behaviour that has lead to the reward can easily be forgotten.
A public reward made soon after the event will encourage and motivate your employee and also bring that behaviour to the attention of the rest of the team, allowing them to imitate the behaviour that led to the reward.
5. Don’t keep changing the rules
Regularly changing the rules for achieving awards and bonuses with a staff motivation scheme will only demotivate your employees. It will make your business look dishonest and not committed to your employees and the motivation programme. This is particularly true for sales team members who like to know their salaries and commission plans.
It is acceptable to re-evaluate targets, goals and awards, however make this an annual process tied in to decisions about the overall business goals and communicate any changes in advance of the date the changes will take place.
John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.