Top talents are gems. Lilies in a placid pond. Lights shining at the end of the tunnel that is not actually an onrushing locomotive, if you like. They are so motivated that there are those who end up being “married to their jobs.”
But what is driving them? How could they work so tirelessly?
It’s in the leadership, according to experts, among them Rebecca Skilbeck, head of Customer Insights and Market Research at PageUp, which is involved in talent management.
“High-functioning teams do exist: organizations such as Google, Atlassian and Microsoft show us it can be done. These teams share a common denominator: their leadership constantly motivates and inspires employees,” said Skilbeck, author of numerous white papers on talent management, in her recent piece for Forbes.
It all starts with goal-setting – something to set the employees’ sights on, like the finish line for marathon runners. Employees who are brought along on the goal-setting journey are 3.6 times more likely to be engaged than those who are not, Skilbeck said.
To drive employees into committing themselves to the task, they should be empowered. This means it should be made clear what is expected of them. Task description should also be listed down such that they get a picture of their role in general and on specific terms.
Last and probably most importantly, it should also be explained how their outputs can make a difference to the company and contribute to its success. This way, employees get a connection with the company and become empowered to selflessly provide their share for its growth.
Not mere numbers
Employees feel let down if treated as mere numbers for the paychecks or name tags on their breast pockets. As other experts would say, employees should be treated with respect and always allowed to express themselves, not only in regular work-in-progress, “alignment” meetings that start the workweek, but in the day-to-day casual environment.
“Every employee should feel that they are valued as an individual,” says Anaya Shastri, human resource technologist. “No one likes being a faceless pawn in a big game. Thus, you need to make sure that your entire workforce is given the opportunity to express themselves. You need to encourage your employees to showcase aspirational personal goals. When employees anticipate a future reward, it makes the work routine easier for them,” she noted.
Sometimes, it would seem the task is so big it couldn’t be done. But that’s exactly how you eat the proverbial elephant – one small bite at a time. In the context of the work environment, this means accomplishing a humongous work by one small step at a time and soon the team reaches a milestone.
Thus, says Skilbeck, it comes down to going beyond key performance indicators or KPIs to track these small bites. “Set goals to track what your people are achieving on a weekly or monthly basis. These don’t have to be performance-driven or KPI-focused. They can be social or cultural, or they can focus on personal development,” she says.
Celebrating milestones, she says, is also about understanding the challenges your people are facing. “When a mini-milestone isn’t met, take the opportunity to see what’s blocking your team’s progress, how it can be overcome, and whether the end-goal needs to be re-assessed.”
Shastri says it pays to develop a rewards program for your employees when they exceed expectations. This is a huge motivator especially when they are recognized publicly.
“Rewards and recognition on a regular basis will remind the employees that they are appreciated. Corporate gifting on festive occasions or holidays is also a great move to ensure that your employees remain motivated. Gifts serve as a small reminder that the company values them,” she said.
Another interesting point in keeping talents comes by way of giving feedbacks that are not just perfunctory in nature. Explains Skilbeck: “Praise is always welcome, but becomes far more meaningful when it is linked to concrete examples.”
For instance, saying, “Great presentation, well done,” sounds fine. BUT saying “Great presentation! Your explanation of how this impacts our customer base will help us improve customer loyalty,” nails it.
It sounded that you went the extra mile to explain the “great presentation,” and this leaves a mark on the employee because it showed you were paying attention to the work done.
“The goal should be to help your people grow and develop, so providing ongoing, timely feedback is crucial,” Skilbeck says.
Game changers at the workplace
Keeping talents going and motivated at work, it would seem, is an art – the art of nurturing future game-changers.
And how is this done?
Establish an atmosphere of trust and consistency, says Skilbeck: “Be mindful of the promises you make: these can have a direct impact on employee engagement because as a manager, you represent the organization. Often, employees don’t distinguish between the promises made by a manager and those made by the company, which means losing trust in a manager can mean losing trust in the whole organization.”
Backtracking violates what is called “psychological contract”—the unwritten set of expectations of an employer-employee relationship.