The 12 Do’s and Don’ts of Employee​​ Motivation

05.14.19Cassi Cummings

We all have experienced the employee who’s either checked out or never even really checked in. Or the occasional lag in an employee who used to be gangbusters.

Sometimes they pick back up and get things going again, and sometimes, as a manager, you’re left to ask yourself, what can I do?

Or rather, “How can Human Resources motivate employees in an organization?

The Answer? Human Resources can not motivate employees!

We know that sounds surprising but let me explain.

Employees are the only ones who can motivate themselves.

However, the Human Resources department, the employee’s supervisor and the leadership of the company can work to create an environment where the employee is able to motivate themselves to be successful.

Once we have accepted this fact, it allows for effective problem solving on how to create a workplace where employees want to stay and do their best work.

Here are just a few things that Human Resources can do to help with this process:

  • Be sure to hire the right people who take satisfaction in doing good work. This means ensuring that there is a good recruiting, interviewing and hiring process in place.
  • Be sure that the wrong people are dealt with fairly and either developed up or developed out. Employees become demoted when they see other poorly performance employees not being held accountable.
  • Reinforce the need for everyone in the company to be a role model and show that they are motivated themselves. Employees will not do be motivated if they see that their boss is not.
  • Encourage managers to get to know their employees and what makes them tick and to share that with HR. It can be as simple as having the manager ask their employees, “What three things motivate you?” and “What do you look forward to when you are coming into work?” For more on what a manager can do, check out my article Management Tactics and Tools that Motivate Employees
  • Human Resources can also find out what motivates employees by asking them. This can be by talking to them individually or by conducting a survey on what is important to employees in regards to their working environment, their benefits, etc.
  • Realizing that most employees do want to feel that they are learning and growing in their jobs, even if they do not want to become a manager one day. This involves determining what the company can provide in the area of training and development to help an employee feel as if they are being successful in their job.
  • Ensure that the company has the best compensation and benefits systems in place that makes them competitive in its marketplace and makes financial sense for the company. Even though money is not usually the number one motivator for employees, they do need to feel that they are being compensated fairly and that they can meet their financial and family obligations.

Here are some things that Human Resources should not do in regards to motivating employees:

  • Not being accessible. The Human Resources department needs to be available to talk to employees, listen to their concerns and work to make changes when it is needed.
  • Not being a problem-solver. I once worked with a human resources person whose first response when an employee came to them was either that is not my job, or I don’t know the answer. If you don’t know, help the employee find the answer!
  • Not being able to handle conflict. A big part of HR’s job is to help resolve conflicts and open up the lines of communication between employees and between employees and their managers.
  • Not working to develop an environment where employees receive feedback both positive and constructive. Feedback is a good tool to use to help employees know what they should and should not be doing and will help them feel they are successful in their jobs.
  • Not knowing their job as an HR professional and not staying up to date on current developments. The ‘know-nothing’ human resources person mentioned above would often respond to questions by saying, “Well, what they are doing is illegal!” without explaining what they meant or how they came to that conclusion.