Feedback and Rewards

Motivate Entry Level Employees in 2008

Silvana Clark asked:

As the New Year begins, many supervisors look for ways to make 2008 more productive by motivating their entry level staff. After all, isn’t it easy to get employees to perform at their highest capabilities? Simply offer lucrative stock options, three-day work weeks and generous salaries. Oprah Winfrey actually gives employees new cars and trips around the world. On the other hand, if you are like most businesses, it takes creativity to motivate employees when your budget is tight.

Motivated employees rely on their own resources to get the job done. They have an inner drive that causes them to provide outstanding customer service. Unmotivated employees simply want to get by doing the minimum amount of work possible. Experts agree you can’t force someone to be motivated. Supervisors can, however, provide a workplace environment that encourages employees to make decisions, deal positively with co-workers and receive recognition for hard work. A key factor is knowing that “entry-level” is not the same as “unimportant”. Your entry level employee is very important in projecting a professional image about your programs and facilities.

In a January 1998 Roper Poll, it was found 9 out of 10 employees will work harder for you if you show an interest in their growth outside of work. This statistic opens up a wealth of ways to motivate employees. One company had a bulletin board in the staff lounge with the caption “Greatest Pets In The World”. It was constantly covered with pictures of adorable puppies and all types of pets owned by the staff. Silvana Clark, a speaker who presents keynotes and workshops on employee motivation, offers these additional suggestions:

Discover your employee’s interests. If an employee loves gardening, give them a small plant in appreciation for their hard work. People appreciate knowing you gave them a gift geared towards their interest or hobby.

Never underestimate the power of meaningful conversation. Asking an employee, “How did your son do at the basketball tournament?” shows you care about more than the employee’s ability to change linen.

Some companies offer brown bag seminars on non-work related topics. Contact local speakers to give presentations on how to select a summer camp for children or even tips on signing up for continuing education classes.

Acknowledge birthdays. I once had an employee thank me for sending a birthday card. He told me that card was the only recognition of his birthday he had that day. One company honors birthdays by making a large card out of colored tag board with, “Happy Birthday Jeanette!” at the top. Throughout the day, other employees sign their names, write birthday greetings or draw comical pictures on the giant card. The completed card is one you’ll never find at Hallmark, but will make the birthday person feel special.

These types of activities help employees feel staff cares about them as individuals, not simply employees. The University of Kansas psychology department studied other ways to motivate employees. Their results showed recognition was a strong factor in developing employees with high work standards. Again, giving recognition doesn’t take a huge budget. One supervisor gives “psychological paychecks”. When employees receive their paychecks, he attaches a Post-it note on the envelope with a specific positive statement such as, “Helen, Thank you for coming in early last week during 4th of July Weekend. I appreciate your help in decorating for the company picnic during such a busy time.” Employees take pride in knowing their extra efforts are acknowledged. Begin staff meetings with public praise for an employee’s efforts or contributions to the department. Wouldn’t you enjoy being in a meeting that starts with, “Last week, Jennifer came in as a substitute on incredibly short notice. I’d like to thank her by giving her this gift:a submarine sandwich!”

In a survey for American Express, pollsters asked employees, “What do you want most from your employer?” The results? 46% of employees said they wanted personal feedback and 32% stated financial rewards would motivate them. Personal feedback involves communication on a regular basis. Sound simple? Here’s a startling statistic: In a study of 22,000 shift workers, almost 70% said there’s little communication between them and management. Communication can be walking the halls and asking, “How’s it going?” Tim Van Houten, director of Quinault Beach Resort and Casino in Washington State says, “We (myself and my supervisors) motivate through our personal example…modeling eye contact; smiles; name recognition; caring and concern for both our internal guests (fellow team members) and our external guests (those visitors we have the privilege of serving.) If it works for a casino, it can work for your staff!

Entry level employees often work long hours at minimum wage. The following are additional general ideas for motivating employees:

Recognition in front of peers. One property offered “standing ovations” at staff meetings to employees demonstrating outstanding customer service.

Ask for employee feedback and acknowledge their input. The Towers Perrin survey polled 250, 000 employees. Only 48% said, “My boss listens to my opinions.”

Chocolate is always a great motivator! Or buy small gifts such as a novelty red PANIC button to attach to their keyboard when the urge to panic strikes.

Take a tip from the CEO of Eze Castle Software. Everyday at 2:30 he gathers all his staff for an actual milk and cookie break. The casual atmosphere keeps him in touch with all his employees. (OK maybe that’s not possible, but it does show the importance of meeting informally with staff.)

Keep people informed. As much as possible, let employees know what is going on. Rumors and gossip uncertainty do little to motivate employees. Reward employees who recommend new employees.

Send balloons or flowers to an employee’s home if he/she does something outstanding.

Select employees to help interview other entry-level employees. They’ll learn valuable job interviewing skills.

Ask employees this simple question: What would help you do a better job? Follow up on as many suggestions as possible.

Oprah Winfrey has the budget to motivate her employees with exotic gifts and luxury vacations. Most supervisors and managers need to rely on creativity and a few pieces of chocolate. The point is the same. Let entry-level employees know you appreciate their efforts and hard work.This results in highly motivated employees.


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