It inevitably happens with every successful online, tech or SaaS company: your business grows. So much so that you need to hire. It starts with one person to complement your skill set, then one more, then another. Before you know it you have a real team. Your focus is shifted from developer to manager/leader.
Your work is now even more involved with people, the people you hired, the people you work with. They can have their ups and downs, but how to deal with employees that are lacking motivation?
Why employees get demotivated
Let's start with the bad news first: it's all your fault. Sorry. No other way around it. You either hired wrong, didn't noticed it earlier, or you didn't set the right environment or example. If you know or noticed an employee is not motivated, it probably is too late. It's though, important to act upon it swiftly. Employees lacking motivation, or slackers, can infect a team like cancer, and drag everyone down.
“If you find yourself constantly motivating your team, there's a much deeper problem.”
There's a story of two bricklayers: One of them saw their job as stacking bricks. The other saw their mission as building a magnificent cathedral. Make sure your employees see their mission as the last bricklayer. Make the mission clear from the very beginning. You don't build a website or an app, you help people solve a problem or pain they have. The website is merely a tool to accomplish this. If you haven't already, stop reading, do this now. I'll wait here…
By having a clear mission and having well-defined tasks and steps to reach that goal, every employee will feel that their work is meaningful.
Doing things that are not at all in alignment with your mission or having a stance that goes against common sense, has a great negative effect on your employee's motivation.
Pay or salary does not help as a motivator, but if an employee feels they are not paid fairly this can be the catalyser of demotivation. As such it really does help to be transparent and open about your salaries.
Unmotivated due to personal reasons
There might be personal reasons when they're temporarily unmotivated. They might be struggling with their (mental) health or one of their loved-ones is sick.
These are temporarily and the motivation will return once they've dealt with whatever they need to deal with. It's important to have an environment where they're free, and not afraid to talk about any issue. Give the freedom to get their problems sorted and help where possible.
How to spot an unmotivated employee
It's not up to the employee to bring up their lack of motivation. Ideally, you have an open and transparent company. Where everyone is free to speak their thoughts out loud. They're not afraid to speak their mind to you. But you need be on top of what's going on within your company and with your employees. Regularly having a (progress) talk with every one of them to see what's happening and how they're really doing is a great way to start. Muna can help here.
You know how to run a company; every process is thought off, every service is well chosen, but you haven't mastered the engagement with your workforce. Without engaged employees, they'll do the bare minimum to keep their job and nothing more.
Also remember: team members lacking motivation can still do their job well (enough). But it then is a matter of time before they will depart for a new job.
How to motivate employees
If you find yourself constantly motivating your team, there's a much deeper problem. In a perfect world, you wouldn't need to motivate anyone at all. You don't run a perfect company though and thus sometimes you can use a little help on this front.
Start with yourself. As a leader, become the best version of yourself. This is how you discover a genuine, authentic way to create a human connection with every employee. They don't work for you, but with you. Together you work on the shared mission of the company.
Make sure they know whatever they do day-to-day is part of this greater mission. That what they're doing is making a difference and that it's energising.
The path to reach this goal can be uncertain, but don't be the leader that doesn't steer the ship in a new direction every couple of months.
For a greater good, a mission to be proud off, employees are happy to give in a bit of salary. But if they know they are greatly underpaid, this will a huge de-motivator. Being transparent about your salaries can greatly help on this front.
Intelligent employees like to keep on top of their game. Provide enough ways for anyone to learn and grow. Provide the tools and time for this.
Little tips and nudges to can help you a little bit:
- congratulate on (small) wins;
- you can never say 'thank you' enough;
- do not micromanage (you hired people for a specific reason);
- let people do their own work, do not interfere;
Working with people is (even for seasoned) entrepreneurs and managers a challenge. Everybody has different ideas and insights. But as to what makes people happy at work, this guide lays a perfect foundation to have employees that are satisfied, happy to work with you for years to come.
Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash