January 9, 2023

On Purpose: Motivating Your Employees

Every day, employees engage in key decision-making processes that can affect the organization. When it comes to improving organizational performance, employee engagement is a foundational component to determining workplace outcomes. However, according to McKinsey, only 49% of employees report that they feel connected to their organization’s mission and values.  Today’s employees want stronger relationships, a sense of belonging, and to be seen. 

Vision, Communication, and Purpose: A Connection Between Heart and Mind
Managers account for at least 70% of the variance in team engagement
, making it critical for leaders to carefully consider their influence on building community, cohesion, and connectivity within their teams. When it comes to motivating your employees, communicating your organization’s vision and values is the single most important thing a leader can do. 

A shared vision needs to run from the individual to team level, from the bottom to the top of the organization—people need to be able to clearly see the vision and mission and identify with it. 

According to Harvard Business Review, a truly powerful strategic purpose statement does two things: First, it clearly articulates the organization’s strategic goals, and second, it motivates your workforce. When the vision is clearly communicated and employees embrace it, they’re inspired and passionate about doing work that lives up to the organization’s promise. 

Quiet Quitting: A Key Insight into Employee Motivation
Now more than ever before, actively engaging your team is critical to instilling motivation, especially when it comes to the rising trend of quiet quitting—or the absence of emotional investment or psychological attachment that employees have to their work.

Gallup’s most recent data shows that nearly half of all US employees are not engaged, while only 32% are actively engaged. This overall decline is attributed to a lack of clarity towards role expectations, few opportunities to learn and grow, an absence of empathy from employers, and a growing disconnect to the organization’s mission and purpose.

There is no one-size-fits-all reason as to why employees are choosing to actively disengage, but understanding the why behind quiet quitting can help leaders develop sustainable solutions to drive passion and commitment to the organization.

Actionable Steps Employers Can Take to Energize Their Workforce
Pay close attention to work-life balance

Since April 2021, more than 19 million US workers—and counting—have voluntarily left their jobs, disrupting the flow of business everywhere. If the past two years have taught us anything, it's that employees are invested in the human aspects of working. They want a renewed sense of purpose and belonging; they want to have meaningful interactions with their colleagues and employers, not just transactions. 

Investing in a fulfilling employee experience and recognizing emerging demands for greater flexibility at work may be the key to driving motivation. Being sensitive to feelings of burnout and exhaustion can help leaders identify ways to simplify the work environment and promote employee well-being.

Keep the vision visible
In order for purpose to be understood, leaders need to provide their employees with sufficient clarity and direction. One way to drive progress is by celebrating short-term wins, which can in turn prevent a loss of momentum and keep your workforce engaged. When teams are able to celebrate small wins associated with the successful execution of their job description, it helps keep the vision visible and reinforces company values and employee motivation. 

Lead by example
When leaders practice what they preach in a genuine way, others will follow. Employees can easily tell if initiatives are created just for the sake of show, or if they’re created with purpose and intent. A leader’s behavior and their words should be congruent with each other—they should strive to be the prime example of the company’s values.

Empower your people to be the (positive) change they seek
When change is cascaded down as a top-driven mandate, it alienates the space for collaboration and transparency that is central to inclusivity and employee engagement. Today’s employees want to be measured by the value they deliver, not the volume; they want to be involved in the processes of creating the vision and driving change for the greater good. With nearly 75% of the global workforce estimated to be millennials by 2025, it is imperative that leaders introduce changes in a way that aligns with the emerging values of their workforce.

To drive motivation, leaders need to empower their taskforce to co-create the vision. In fact, new research shows that employees are more likely to reach an organizational objective if they are empowered to take ownership of the objective and can envision the steps it takes to reach it. Leaders should make it a priority to motivate employees by helping them better understand the meaning of their work and the value they provide to the company. 

Create an Inclusive Environment
Great leaders show genuine interest in their taskforce and make a concerted effort to understand how to engage them. Inclusivity is critical to employee motivation. McKinsey found that leaders who demonstrate a combination of both consultative and supportive leadership behaviors can increase the likelihood of their workforce’s psychological safety, fostering a positive team climate. Inclusive leaders are able to listen to the needs of their team, whether it’s by soliciting the team’s input and considering their viewpoints on issues that affect them, or demonstrating concern and supporting them not just as employees, but as individuals. 

Provide Frequent Feedback
Annual performance reviews and 360-degree surveys may be useful tools for evaluating employee performance, but are not the most effective at providing employees with clear and immediate feedback. In fact, according to Gallup, only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work

Positive feedback overwhelmingly boosts employee motivation: When an individual’s efforts are recognized and valued, it can contribute to greater productivity, loyalty to the company and can reduce voluntary turnover. By recognizing when an employee’s work aligns with the company’s purpose, brand, and values, leaders can bolster employee motivation while leading to other desirable organizational outcomes.

With Purpose, With Passion
Designing a workplace environment for success starts with intentionally engaging your taskforce. If every team member understands how their position directly contributes to the success of the company, it can prevent voluntary turnover and improve employee retention, which have tremendous effects on motivation. When organizations can clearly articulate their purpose and connect their employee’s passion to their job description, they will have strengthened the company from the inside and out.

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