How to motivate employees to be their best

13 March, 2019
How to motivate employees to be their best

Creating positive experiences from meaningful moments

There is much we can learn about how to motivate employees to be their best by considering our basic human instincts. The average human is a very social animal. We have a yearning to be part of something bigger than us. Thus, we follow football teams and rock bands. We join with others who have similar interest in social media groups. We join clubs in which others share the same interests. The need to belong and connect are compulsions which help us learn, improve, and achieve. When we find ourselves in an alien situation, our desire to fit in may lead to mimicking behaviours of the group in order to receive approval. However, this brings only temporary satisfaction. Mimicking of behaviours does not allow us to present our authentic selves to the world, including our imperfections. Only when we are our genuine, authentic selves, and are accepted and welcomed as such do we truly feel a part of something. This connection energises us and motivates us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. It creates passion and enthusiasm. This article explores how to motivate employees to be their best, with the knowledge that they desire to be part of something bigger.


Identity equals belonging

The enduring lesson from our social interactions is that when identities align, we develop a sense of belonging. We belong because we support the same football team, share the same interests, or believe in the same politics. Your organisation has its own identity. Providing experiences that confirm to an employee that your organisation’s identity aligns with their own is critical to how to motivate employees to be their best, because this alignment establishes a deep sense of belonging.


How to motivate employees to be their best by showing vulnerability

Many managers have the misconception that vulnerability is weakness. In fact, vulnerability can engender a greater sense of belonging and provide the experiences that cement alignment of personal and organisational identity. Creating moments of vulnerability allows you to shape an organisational culture in which people become more connected with each other and with the organisation. Gallup has identified four such ‘meaningful moments’:

  1. When you propose a new idea
  2. When you ask for help
  3. When you push back on something
  4. When you ask for a personal favour

The way in which you manage these moments provides evidence of your organisational culture. If managed well, they can deliver the alignment of identities that encourages passion, excitement, and enthusiasm. If managed poorly, they will provide negative experiences that divide the employee from the organisation. Therefore, management of these meaningful moments is key to how to motivate employees to be their best.


How to motivate employees to be their best with positive meaningful moments

Consider a scenario where new salesperson who has joined your organisation because you have promised the opportunity to work closely with the product and marketing teams. As a new employee, it is likely that they will be hesitant to come forward with new ideas. The first time they do, you have a decision to make: do you welcome them and explore them, or do you ignore them? Let’s say that in a team meeting, this new employee suggests that a weekly coaching session bringing the product, marketing, and sales teams together would help provide greater clarity of roles, problems, and opportunities. By reacting positively, leading a conversation about the merits of the idea put forward, and encouraging the employee to develop their idea, the employee is given a positive experience in their moment of vulnerability. You confirm that they belong. Consider reacting differently, by saying that the organisation tried that before and that it didn’t work. The employee’s sense of belonging is shattered. They are less likely to come forward with new ideas again, and the organisational culture they believed aligned with their own values and believes will have been discredited.


How to motivate employees to be their best through storytelling

A successful tactic to influence the sense of belonging is to use brand storytelling as a strategy to improve employee engagement, connecting vulnerability, meaningful moments, and positive outcomes. These stories become part of the fabric of the company, passed down between employees as examples of identity alignment. Stories can be used throughout the company and shared in many ways – including in team meetings, company newsletters, and one-to-ones – and should be embedded within the role of employee engagement in recruitment: sharing stories that highlight organisational culture during the hiring process helps candidates understand the company they are joining.


In summary

In searching for ways how to motivate employees to be their best, proactively managing meaningful moments influences positive outcomes, by helping to show that the employee’s identity, values and beliefs are aligned with those of the organisation. This engenders the sense of belonging which is critical to engagement and all the benefits that follow. Storytelling is an integral part an employee engagement strategy, helping to provide the positive anecdotes that underline organisational culture and connect employees to each other and the organisation’s purpose and mission. In our next article, we explore how organisations can provide an engaging work environment in the modern, autonomous workplace. In the meantime, to discover how our Learning Map could help you to improve  your employee engagement strategy by helping to share and embed the stories that help your employees connect with your purpose and goals, get in touch with The Big Picture People today.

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