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How Do I Motivate My People?

Dr. Lee Kang Yam

Chief Learning Curator | Flame Centre

How do I motivate my people?

Before I answer this question, I always ask my managers and supervisors to raise their hands if they think money motivates people. Money is a hygiene factor and not a motivator of performance. Research has shown that money does not engage people but you need to pay people enough to get the issue off the table (Kaye & Jordan-Evans, 2021).

I have observed that there are a few things that managers and supervisors can do to motivate their people and all these are within their control and influence. I will summarise them into the following:

1. System and Structure

2. Resources

3. Culture

4. Career Progression

1. System and Structure

- rules, procedures, interrelated processes and elements that drive the operations of the business.

I remember in the first organisation that I worked for, there was a big national innovation movement using simple systems like the Staff Suggestion Scheme. One day, my Director put a big blackboard in the middle of the office to track the number of staff suggestions. It was prominent and tracked the weekly top ten contributors. Gradually, people began to watch the leaderboard, the number of suggestions increased and people felt proud to be on the top ten list. I noticed that a simple monitoring system like this can motivate performance. However, be careful of the ‘dark sides’ of these systems as quantity triumphs over quality

2. Resources

- people, money and materials.

In this economic climate, it is very difficult to ask for more people and money. Leaders are frequently asked to do more with less, to maximise their contributions given existing resources. However, leaders can identify the right person for the job, and leverage an individual’s aspirations and strengths to maximise their contributions. Putting the right people into the right roles is a powerful motivator and contributor to higher performance.

3. Culture

- norms, behaviours and work climate leaders set and co-create with their people.

All leaders can build a positive and high-performing team culture through open, honest conversations, regular check-ins, two-way feedback, coaching and team bonding sessions. If your organisation is using core competencies or values, reinforce the desired behaviours through regular communications to set and clarify expectations on how staff do their work.

4. Career Progression

- what people want from their careers and the opportunities available for internal movement.

Leaders should spend time to identify the career anchors of their people and explore various career pathways. There are stay-in-place, vertical, exploratory, lateral and diagonal career progressions that can provide staff with pathways to satisfy their career needs.

How are you motivating your people? Do share in the comments below.


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