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Jo Geraghty

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Top tips: Boosting motivation at work


When times are tough, it can be a bit of an uphill struggle to ensure your teams stay engaged and motivated. Jo Geraghty has some top motivational tips to ensure the workforce remains productive.

Motivating teams in your organisation can be a tough and unrewarding task in the current economic environment. Morale is low so thoughts of career progression and pay increases seem like a distant memory. Each employee will know somebody who has recently been made redundant or who risks losing their job. In fact, the distracting fear that they have about losing their own position can lead to thinking and behaving in a negative way, which is detrimental to productivity levels.

There are a number of things that you can do, other than increase remuneration, to boost motivation levels in your teams and keep the wheels of enterprise in motion.

1. Motivate yourself

It may sound obvious but if you subscribe to the same negative outlook as the rest of your employees, you will only reinforce the way they are feeling. It’s already enough that they are being bombarded by negative messages from the media and other colleagues.

Keeping a positive outlook on life and work doesn’t mean you need to proclaim how wonderful life is from the office roof and deny there are issues in the economy! We all accept that challenges will regularly present themselves, which is something we cannot control. We can control our reaction to any given situation, which is a powerful tool.

Adopting a glass-half-full stance with comments such as "Quieter times in business allow you more scope to develop relationships with clients and colleagues" and "Managing to work through turbulent times will teach you many valuable lessons,"will prove more beneficial to your team, yourself and the organisation.

2. Measure performance

Employees want to feel that they are improving themselves and that they are highly regarded within the company. Receiving regular feedback on their performance can serve to boost their confidence, identify development areas and ensure that their personal objectives are aligned to that of the organisation. Developing a 360 degree system whereby the individual receives feedback from subordinates, peers and management is one of the fairest and most effective processes.


3. Increase accountability and responsibility

Contrary to popular belief, employees are not only motivated by money. Another important factor in job satisfaction is the level of autonomy a person has. Giving employees more decision-making powers and responsibility can make them feel like they are progressing up the career ladder rather than stuck in their current role. This can be giving increased people management responsibilities, opportunities to manage a project or devise a new process.

Getting managers to coach rather than instruct can create a powerful shift in mindset. The more accountable a person feels for an outcome, the more engaged they become in ensuring its success. Asking: "What do you see as the issues?" and "How would you set about resolving them?" will create a more positive outcome than: "Complete this by Tuesday morning."

4. Develop people

Nobody likes to feel like they’re mentally stagnated. Offering employees the opportunity to learn a new skill will help them to feel like they are progressing. Whether it’s learning a language, training on a new software package or improving their management skills, they will at least feel that working hard in the recession is not wasted. When the economy picks up these new skills can be used for promotions, team changes or for the much desired overseas assignment.

5. Keep it interesting

Another way to keep employees interested in their work is to introduce a rotation system within the department.

Every three to six months a select number of employees exchange roles and learn a new function. Not only does this mean they are up-skilling but also motivates your high performers while they get training experience as they teach their role to someone else. This engenders team spirit as there is a greater understanding of what their colleagues do and reduces key person dependencies within the organisation.

6. Introduce flexible working

This is a topic that tends to elicit a ‘roll of the eyes’ from many managers and HR professionals. Flexible working is often confused with part-time working or categorised as being for people who are not career focused. It really shouldn’t be.

Allowing your team to work from home occasionally or to start earlier than usual so that they can leave earlier (to make their child’s school play or a regular badminton session) is a very cost effective and easily implemented mechanism to keep motivation high, productivity up and absenteeism down.

7. Understand and support

Although we may think of the workforce as a group, the reality is that they are a group of individuals, all of whom are motivated differently.

Making time to meet with your team on a one-to-one basis to listen to their thoughts, requests and concerns will not only ensure that the employee feels understood, valued and supported but will also give you a greater insight into which motivation techniques will be the most effective.

8. Acknowledge achievements

This is probably one of the most neglected and frequently forgotten tips in motivating people. Give praise for work which has been done well, pass on positive feedback from senior management or a client, and acknowledge hard work to complete a project or outstanding customer service. Doing this publicly, such as during a team meeting or in an email copying senior management will have even greater impact.


Jo Geraghty is managing director of Beyond the Ladder and is one of the UK’s leading coaches for executives and entrepreneurs. Jo has over 14 years experience working for US investment banks in a variety of roles from FX trading to Client Relationship Services and HR Management and was formerly head of HR for Goldman Sachs France and Switzerland.

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