Executive Coaching Articles

Employee Motivation & Retention

Traditions and myths about best work practices cloud the workforce. Some of these beliefs have influenced businesses for generations.

New studies, however, are showing some of the commonly understood methods of motivating and retaining employees are not based in facts. They are myths.

Check out these five areas where common wisdom will yield poorer results than unexpected actions.

  1. More Pay Makes a More Satisfied Employee.

While pay can influence motivation and employee retention, it is not the magic bullet. Simply throwing money at your employees in the hopes of keeping them is ineffective. A McKinsey Quarterly survey showed that cash, bonuses, or options motivated only 35-60% of workers.

Workers were more motivated by praise from managers (67%), recognition from company leaders (63%) or opportunities to lead projects (62%).

While money can influence, other factors also play an important part in employee satisfaction.

  1. Keeping Your Best Workers Gives Better Results.

When most businesses downsize, they retain their best employees and let the weaker ones go. Some companies may practice the first in first out method of letting workers go.

But it turns out keeping the best workers may add to a company’s production as much as keeping moderately or poorly performing employees.

In the recession of 2007 to 2009, hours worked fell 10 percent, but output fell only 7.16 percent. Companies accomplished more with fewer workers.

Stanford University economists Ed Lazear studied the trend. He said, “The quality of the work force hardly changes. Instead the increase in productivity comes because workers work harder.”

Less productive workers increased their work and added more to productivity than highly effective workers. He said, “It appears the less productive workers are the most responsive to recessions and increases in local unemployment rates….”

  1. Employees Require Explicit Guidance and Direction.

All too often management controls, interferes, and micro-manages. They tell workers what to do and when to do it—essentially trying to turn employees into robots. This neither motivates nor retains thinking employees.

Self-direction can be a valuable motivator for employees. They have an innate desire for some autonomy. When management uses appropriate reporting, it can give workers the freedom to schedule and work in a method best for them.

The resulting autonomy creates more satisfied workers and more innovation and success.

  1. Loyal Employees Don’t Vacation.

You might think that working every day is essential for productivity and shows a motivated employee. However studies show that vacations do a better job of increasing productivity and employee satisfaction.

Workers come back to the job refreshed and with a better attitude toward work. When they are able to take breaks from their job, they appreciate their work and they are more likely to stay.

  1. Only Reward Success.

Rewarding success can lead to lack or creativity or innovation. It tends to focus on a narrow segment and ignore the majority of workers.

There’s masterful insight into rewarding spectacular failure. When you reward a bold move that doesn’t succeed, you are setting a culture that encourages innovation. You reward the mindset and the attempt, and the willingness to think in creative ways.

When you free employees to make mistakes you create an environment that attracts and motivates.

Consider your organization’s culture and management practices as they relate to employee motivation and retention. Are you sticking with worn out or less effective methods of retention? Can you innovate to better ways of motivating? Certainly rewarding failure can be a creative breakthrough that will get your employees’ attention across the board. Consider also that there are many other varieties of employee retention bonuses that will help you keep and motivate your high value people.