In The Workplace

The pandemic has prevented us from giving high pay and perks to our employees, who deserve it. This is due to our poor sales performance. In fact, we have retrenched some workers to help the organization survive. Given our limitations, is there a better way of motivating the survivors? — Starry Night.

The short but crisp answer is: if you can’t afford to pay well, then at least, treat the workers well. Don’t be a difficult boss. As I’ve said time and again, problem workers are created by problem managers.

Among other things, problem managers are those who micromanage, bully their workers, fail to solicit or listen to their ideas, distrust them, and not show an interest in their career growth. The most important thing of all to look out for, according to Peter Drucker (1909-2005), the Father of Modern Management is to avoid thinking that “management”  consists of “making it difficult for people to get their work done.”

Toxic managers don’t realize it. They still cling to the old ways of command-and-control, which has been obsolete since around the time World War II ended. Just the same, its allure can’t be stamped out easily. It’s the reason managers undermine their own workers without realizing it. Unless you accept this fact, there’s nothing you can do, even if you have the capacity to pay good money.

It’s not exactly difficult. I mean, there are many non-cash strategies that you can tap to motivate workers, all of them involving treating them well. Unless you adopt such a strategy, things may get worse before they get better. Let’s explore some of the best possible ways to treat your workers:

One, emphasize non-monetary benefits in the hiring process. You may have stopped hiring new workers, but who knows what the future will bring? Assuming that you need new workers and can’t offer them above-average industry pay and perks, then the best thing to do is to offer soft rewards. These include flexible work schedules, challenging tasks, friendly bosses and a welcoming, fun environment.

Two, maintain a proactive two-way communication program. Most people don’t discuss their work difficulties. This is why dynamic companies initiate and maintain communication with their workers. These measures include employee morale surveys, town hall meetings, 15-minute morning meetings, and the establishment of a labor-management council, which is encouraged by Republic Act 6715.

For individual employees with specific needs, management may do well to coach and conduct “stay” interviews to determine their pulse. Here are some basic questions to ask: How can I help you ease your difficulties at work, if any? How can I help you succeed in your career? And many more.

Three, find ways to commend people publicly. Make every recognition day meaningful by inviting the management team. Give out trophies, not just certificates. If you’re serious about honoring employees, make it an occasion to be cherished for a lifetime. Invite the worker’s spouse or parent as a surprise guest.

If the worker has accomplished something extraordinary like saving millions of pesos or securing a valuable contract, give out a gift of some value like a watch or a gift certificate from an appliance store. Such gifts will be remembered for some time.

Four, give the gift of time and flexibility. Allow some fast-trackers and high-achievers to work on key projects that help the organization achieve its goals. Offer them flexi-time, work-from-home arrangements or a hybrid. Emulate a Google policy of allowing workers to spend 20% of their time (or one day a week) to pursue any idea that could help support the company’s mission.

Five, say “please” and “thank you” a lot. Recently, a toxic manager posed a question on social media: “Why would I thank an employee for doing his job?” The answer is easy and persuasive — why not? Really, treating people well is an inexpensive means of motivating workers. You don’t have to spend a fortune.

But you need to be sincere, specific, and inspiring. Write down all the things you like about the worker and what he did.

Six, engage, energize, and empower individuals and teams. This is best accomplished if your company has a robust employee relations program that includes quality circles, sports clubs, and many others. Offer individual employees options like challenging tasks to help them grow; allow them to transfer to other departments where their talent is best suited.

Sometimes, even allowing certain workers to be transferred to a geographical location near their residence or being seconded to a client for a limited period can be beneficial for both organizations.

Last, foster and promote intrinsic employee rewards. Your employees can be stuck doing the same repetitive tasks. They could easily find themselves in a rut. This is what Abraham Maslow told us about “self-actualization” in his time-tested Hierarchy of Needs. By giving workers the proper environment to feel good about themselves, they will be excited to report every day because they enjoy their work.

No matter how well you treat your workers, there’s no guarantee their loyalty won’t fade. Good times can turn bad sooner than you think. Even good things must come to an end and employees may come to believe you’re taking them for a ride. This is the right time to conduct the “stay” interview with your employees.

It makes sense to invest time and energy on taking the pulse of each and every worker under your care. Keep a watchful eye. Be sensitive to people’s needs. Look for ways to attend to their career goals. Help them achieve them. Go the extra mile and cover all the details. But don’t push them too hard and undo all your efforts.


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