8. May 2019

Motivation at the workplace: how to keep your staff engaged

Employer and superiors depend on them: dedicated employees who are fully committed, love to develop new ideas, and thrive in their jobs. Staff motivation is decisive for the success of a company. If it is high, people work better. It all looks promising at the start, says consultant and social worker Katrin Schenker:

Katrin Schenker, consultant and social worker at the Basel location

“New employees are always particularly motivated.”

Often, however, the initial enthusiasm for the new tasks gets lost with everyday routine. In a study covering the period from 2014 to 2016 the consulting firm Gallup found that more than 70 percent of employees in Switzerland are little engaged and work to rule.

Source: Gallup GmbH

Clarifying expectations regularly

Katrin Schenker knows the problem: “In our consultations we see that demotivation is mostly connected to unclarified expectations and uncertain possibilities”. Moreover, employees often don’t know how to broaden their personal options. “This is why it is necessary to touch base regularly to address mutual expectations, not just in the annual performance review,” Schenker advises. Such meetings provide an excellent opportunity to clarify misunderstandings. Any changes to the job description – e.g. due to restructuring – and the associated changes in the scope of duties must then be addressed.

Identifying demotivating factors

It helps to discuss with employees which tasks they enjoy particularly and what motivates them for their work – and conversely how to approach the less pleasant tasks. “Identifying demotivating factors is extremely important to ensure work satisfaction. Fatigue is sometimes due to operational reasons and sometimes the reasons are private”, says Schenker.

Appreciation as a driver for motivation

Most people actually enjoy working, as long as their efforts are valued. Often, however, employees feel a lack of appreciation on the part of superiors or the team. Depending on the type of personality appreciation has a different effect, according to Katrin Schenker: “Some employees need praise and recognition for their work, others need to feel esteemed as a person to be able to show the desired performance.”

 “Identifying demotivating factors is extremely important to ensure work satisfaction. Fatigue is sometimes due to operational reasons and sometimes the reasons are private.”

No pressure in the event of illness

Any praise must be specific, referring to tasks or projects that have been completed particularly well. “Also in the event of failure it is important to appreciate the efforts made by highlighting those aspects that went well. Supervisors should give thought to what they appreciate about their employees and to pass this on to them as a compliment», says Schenker. Displays of empathy generally have a positive effect on the working attitude. Employees appreciate not being under pressure to return to work as soon as possible in the event of illness.

Allowing for scope of action

The more employees can make their own decisions, the more committed they will be at work. Hence, superiors should let them plan and coordinate their work independently. “If employees are given the opportunity to grow with their tasks they will be more motivated to commit themselves to them”, says Katrin Schenker. The possibility to help shape their own work environment provides employees with additional satisfaction.

“If employees are given the opportunity to grow with their tasks they will be more motivated to commit themselves to them.”

Transparent decision making

On the other hand, rigorous time and task tracking and decision making across several hierarchical levels are counterproductive – all the more so, if they are hard to understand for the individual concerned. This results in demotivation, which makes problem solving all the more difficult. Supervisors who support their team in self-management may have to invest a little more time in the work relationship upfront. In the long run, however, appreciation and freedom of action will pay off – through motivated and loyal employees. Please read our blog article Times of Change – Industry 4.0 in this context.

Proitera is an impartial, confidential, external contact for problems at the workplace. In our occupational social consultancy and together with you we develop solutions towards more motivation at the workplace. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, we are there for you.

This is what you can do

It is not only up to superiors to have a positive effect on staff motivation. The four suggestions below help you work on your engagement:

What I can change myself: If you are dissatisfied at work it helps to reflect on your own expectations. Think about your scope of action and what you can change about the current situation. Ask yourself what motivates you at work and which tasks are meaningful for you. Think about possible solutions that can be implemented and talk to your supervisor.

Recognizing competencies: Raise your profile by defining what you are particularly good at. Reflect on how to apply those skills to your tasks. Your job might allow for a different weighting of the individual activities.

Strike a balance: Find something outside of work to recharge your batteries. Positive experiences help you strike a balance.

Break out of negative patterns: Turn your thoughts to the positive aspects of your job. It may help to keep a positive diary. Take time to note what went well at work. Daily entries can help you draw objective conclusions. Acknowledge problems at work. Define what undermines your motivation. At the same time try to develop a readiness to see positive aspects. Be active as you approach the situation, as in: It’s me who controls the problem, and not the other way around.


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