The difference between an average employee and a great one

Levels of employee motivationWe’ve all come across those employees who do the bare minimum possible in order to perform their jobs.

They come into work just about on time, then in the evening they’re out the office bang on time and not a second later. They sit around in meetings not contributing anything, and often look as if they’d rather be somewhere else. Often they miss deadlines or on a project they do the bare minimum and nothing more. They don’t help solve problems and you can usually find them in the kitchen area wasting time making another hot drink whilst complaining about something or other.

These people just really get my goat! They think the world owes them a living and they are just marking out time until they can leave.

*Deep breath*

On the other hand I know people who give more than what is expected at work, whether it’s on a new project or just their everyday role. They go above and beyond and always have a smile for their co-workers. They are part of the team but they are equally as comfortable working by themselves. They don’t need to be always told what to do, they can see what needs to be done and get on with it. They ask questions if they don’t understand, they make suggestions and they are proud of their work.


How can some employees attitudes differ so drastically?

The answer is simple: motivation.

Of course whilst the answer is simple, the task of motivating your entire workforce is not so clear cut.

Answering the question, “Why do people work?” is extremely difficult. There have been innumerable studies on motivating employees since Douglas McGregor published “The Human Side of Enterprise,” in 1960. And it’s probably fair to say that in most cases it’s not just for the money, which is a simple answer to a complex question.

Great jobThe problem is that employee motivation is as individual as the people you are trying to motivate. There’s no secret formula, no tick box list and no magic pill to motivate your employees.

That’s why I believe that the goal of managers should be to create working conditions that make people want to offer their maximum effort.


What kind of working conditions should employers focus on?


Corporate Culture

When it comes to corporate culture, motivating employees is not about having a bowling alley or beanbags to sit on. It’s about creating an environment where all employees from the top to the bottom of the organisation feel included and an equal part of the business. This means creating a culture where the workforce has regular and candid communication, access to management, and management that listens and acts on their ideas and complaints.


Morale Boosters

Whilst motivating employees should be a year-round activity, once in a while we all need a bit of a morale boost. Friendly competitions, days out and celebration events all enhance team spirit, reinforce high performance and the break in routine can create an environment of interaction and community.


Non-cash Incentives

Reward schemes are a great way to motivate employees and studies suggest that programmes with tangible non-cash rewards are better motivators than cash bonuses. However the one-size-fits-all approach no longer works in today’s multi-generational workplace. Instead offer incentives that have appeal to a wide range of employees such as: multi-store vouchers, gift catalogues or travel vouchers. You might also consider more individualised rewards such as personal development opportunities or public recognition.


There’s no doubt that a great employee is so much better for business than an average one, but in order to get the best out of their workforce organisations have to put the effort into motivating everyone, not just those in the sales team.


John Sylvester

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.

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