Uncertain times can be unsettling for your team. Elaine Lam — Managing Director, Robert Half Hong Kong, looks at how to keep employees motivated and bring out the best in your people.
Motivating staff is a key skill for business leaders though it can be more challenging at certain times than at others. Periods of economic or domestic uncertainty, the introduction of new workplace technologies — even something as simple as returning to work following a vacation, are all factors than can see employee motivation flag.
But motivation matters. It goes hand-in-hand with productivity and the success of your business. Employees who feel motivated are more invested in their work and are more likely to galvanise and inspire their coworkers.
Conversely, disengaged employees can lower the morale of staff around them — including managers, who may have to shoulder an additional workload and accompanying pressure to compensate for a poorly performing team.
So while cultivating motivation can be a challenge, it should nonetheless be high on a manager’s agenda. Here are five ways to keep your team motivated, focused and productive.
If you believe employee motivation is being impacted by a particular factor such as economic uncertainty, speak to your staff openly about it. Acknowledge the situation and give employees the opportunity to ask questions. Having a clear picture can relieve tension and allow your team to re-focus.
Hong Kong is known for long working hours, and local working time is still on the high side globally. Figures from the Legislative Council of Hong Kong show working hours in Hong Kong average around 42 hours per week, higher than many other economies.
Since your team will be spending plenty of their waking hours at the office, aim to create a pleasant physical working environment. A study by CBRE found that 71% of Millennials in the Asia Pacific would give up other benefits in exchange for a better office environment. So take a look around the office — allowing natural light to enter the building, and having comfortable furniture and open work spaces can all help to brighten the office mood and lift motivation.
Offering competitive salaries always makes sense to maintain employee motivation. However, research by Robert Half confirms that workers in Hong Kong also place considerable value on non-financial benefits particularly workplace flexibility (Robert Half 2020 Salary Guide — Independent survey commissioned by Robert Half, surveying office workers in Hong Kong).
Where possible, consider options such as a compressed working week, or flextime, that lets employees work a variety of office hours. Explore options for telecommuting — working remotely, even just for one or two days a week, can reignite employee motivation.
Recognising employee effort can be critical to maintaining motivation — and it doesn’t have to be complex. A simple ‘thank you’ for a job well done — either in person or publicly, can help you bring out the best in your people.
Recognition doesn’t have to be linked to performance targets. Acknowledging an employee who stayed back late to support a coworker can show that you are aware of the effort being made by each employee while also encouraging teamwork.
Overloading employees with an unreasonable volume of work or setting targets that are unrealistic can quickly drain even the most motivated employee.
Most people inherently want to please, and while it makes sense to aim high — don’t expect the impossible from your team. Set achievable timeframes and workloads, and provide clear directions so that each employee understands what is expected of them — and why they are completing a task. Explaining the reasons for your requests can support greater buy-in and help your staff understand how their personal contribution is making a difference to the success of the organisation.
Motivating employees is an ongoing aspect of a manager’s role: Don’t wait for a downturn in the office mood to start taking action. By maintaining your team’s enthusiasm, you’re more likely to build a team that is not just productive but also loyal to the company for the long term.