What performance culture can teach us about motivating employees in the workplace

motivating employeesFrom start-ups to well-established companies, organisations thrive or fail on motivating employees. It’s mission-critical. Motivated employees are easy to spot – they tend to align their purpose to that of the company, are more innovative with their problem-solving and have a greater impact. Organisations must actively work to motivate and engage employees, giving them a sense of purpose. Otherwise, there’s a real risk of the company falling behind the competition and staying there.

Start-ups have an advantage on this front; it’s easier to motivate smaller, more tight-knit teams. Employees can be continually realigned to ever-changing organisational priorities. As companies develop and grow, maintaining this level of employee motivation becomes increasingly important. At the same time, it is more difficult to ensure culture clearly reflects purpose in the workplace, and therefore motivates employees as individuals and the organisation as a whole to perform. HR processes – from goal setting to managing performance and recognising achievement – can be a double-edged sword. These can either build upon the company’s culture or chip away at it.

It’s never too late for a company to change its approach. Whatever the size of the business, building a more engaged, motivated workforce begins with developing a performance-focused culture that goes beyond simple workplace benefits.


Don’t neglect the performance review 

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]While perks like table tennis tables, free lunches and unlimited holiday are nice, they aren’t actually successful tools for motivating employees[/perfectpullquote]

While perks like table tennis tables, free lunches and unlimited holiday are nice, they aren’t actually successful tools for motivating employees. Motivation is a continuous process which involves nurturing a sense of purpose to unify the entire organisation – from employees to managers. At a time when the majority of employees believe performance reviews are a needless HR requirement, managers should think about how they can source the most value from them. When the performance review’s importance is overlooked, it’s often a reflection of the mis-alignment between workers’ day-to-day activities and their understanding of their role within the business’s mission. 

Not only this, but of those managers who do prioritise performance reviews, many only tend to hold them annually and use them as opportunities to reel off a list of bog-standard, demotivating objectives with no timeframe in which to meet them. Such an approach doesn’t fit the modern workforce: annual reviews often fail to nurture a sense of purpose in the workplace or sustain motivation in employees, despite it being the primary purpose of any performance-management program. In order to be motivated, meet today’s goals and prepare for tomorrow’s challenges, employees must have a clear understanding of how their work impacts the company’s performance – and that means having regular conversations about their progress. 

A healthy, performance-focused culture comes down to a need for employees to link their individual objectives to the priorities set by the business monthly, quarterly and annually. To make this possible. HR teams, managers and employees should all have the tools to see the business’s key goals, connect these with their own objectives and track progress toward achieving them individually and as a company. Transparency gives everyone a stake in the process, proving to employees that their work really matters to the overall direction and success of the business.




It’s all in the conversation

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]When managers do take the time to speak to employees, the conversations usually focus on day-to-day tasks and rarely touch on wider goals or development opportunities[/perfectpullquote]

Once each individual’s goals are linked to the wider business objectives, it becomes easier to see where employees need more support to achieve their targets. It’s no longer possible to wait for the end-of-year performance review to see what employees are achieving. Instead of time-consuming, weighty annual reviews where feedback and assistance often comes too late and is no longer valuable, organisations should encourage more frequent light-weight conversations.

Managers often feel they check in with their direct reports regularly, but in reality most don’t have the important performance-related conversations with employees nearly enough. When managers do take the time to speak to employees, the conversations usually focus on day-to-day tasks and rarely touch on wider goals or development opportunities. To break this cycle, managers should be encouraged to hold short monthly conversations. These can focus on three simple goal-oriented questions: 1) What do you need more of? 2) What do you need less of? 3) How can I help?

Following this method keeps work on track and makes it easier to correct any issues in a more timely manner. But businesses shouldn’t expect perfection from the start; employees and managers need practice giving and receiving feedback regularly to become effective. Often, managers either want or need additional help when it comes to coaching employees and teams towards improved performance. However, frequent, short conversations are better than purposely not checking in on performance at all. As time progresses, these discussions become smoother and more valuable for the employee, the manager and, ultimately, the business.

No matter what size your company, creating a performance-driven culture in the workplace that provides purpose and encourages communication will help motivate employees and also retain them — and that will ultimately keep businesses ahead of the competition.

Image by HeungSoon