With the changing work environment due to the pandemic, and the availability of technological resources to allow remote work setup, people managers do all they can to retain their talent lest they be taken by a competitor who can provide better working conditions—in this case, working remotely. International organizations have taken advantage of this by hiring local talent while paying them in dollars. Other organizations have adapted by providing flexible working conditions that provide employees complete autonomy over their time and where to work. With all these new conveniences pulling your team members away, how do you retain them?
During the initial interview, hiring managers would often ask candidates what makes them want to work for the organization. I think an important question that should also be asked is what would make them leave. Much as we need to understand what motivates them to stay, we as people managers also need to understand what would make them leave to ensure if there is a fit in the organizational culture. Then we can decide if their values align with the organization and filter those that would eventually leave, thus freeing resources to candidates who are fit for the role and the organizational culture. Retaining your team starts with carefully choosing someone who has the necessary skills set, but also those who embody the values of the organization.
Another important aspect of your retention strategy should be to look at what motivates your team members to do their work above expectations. I say above expectations because an engaged work force means they exert discretionary effort to do more than the bare minimum because they can relate to the overall goal of the team. You know you have an engaged team when they occasionally volunteer for stretch assignments, provide information for faster decision-making, or are engaged in other activities and groups within the organization, among other things.
There is a lot of literature on motivational theory but most of them agree that motivation can come from two major sources: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation are factors that are within your control and are a result of your own decision. You are motivated to act because you feel that reward is doing the work in itself. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is based on factors outside of yourself which you cannot control. You are driven to act because of a reward, a punishment, or other people’s reaction.
Practically speaking, it would be unwise to dichotomize the two as both often work side by side in driving a person’s actions. A promotion can both be a result of a person’s willingness to equip himself for more responsibilities, and at the same time reflect his desire to be respected and admired by his peers. What is important is to understand what motivates the person so you can help them achieve their goal within the context of the team’s goals. This week, we will focus on extrinsic motivation and how you can use them to motivate your team, and next week we will discuss the different types of intrinsic motivation.
One type of extrinsic motivation is the most common—using incentives. Here, one is driven by what is in it for them and how doing the work will benefit them. There is really nothing wrong about incentives because it gets the work done. The problem with it is when people become so accustomed to it that they will not do the work unless there is a clear incentive to do it. Another problem is that an incentive loses its utility over time because once people get used to it, it becomes the norm, and they would want additional incentives. Your role as a people manager is to identify at what point do you use incentives as a motivator and when to withhold them.
On the other hand, fear of being punished is another motivator. This is especially needed when a team member is not meeting expectations or has become a bad example to new members of the team. While it is not an ideal way of motivating team members, it can become a wake-up call for members who need to be reminded that work is work. Indirectly, you can creatively use this type of motivation by setting a time for your members to present the best practices they use for work. The threat of not being able to present something should be enough to nudge slacking team members in the right direction.
Others are motivated by their group affiliations and the need to be accepted by others as part of the group. While we try to ensure that every member of our team complement each other, they will naturally gravitate toward people who share their interests within the group. Knowing these sub-groups can help you identify the members who can work together on projects because their peers provide an added motivation. Knowing their informal leader is a bonus because you only need to tap them to influence the entire group.
Which brings me to another type of motivator which is the desire to have more power for autonomy and the authority to control others. Some people are driven by their need to be in control and make decisions that will affect the people around them. These are people who want to influence and make an impact in the lives of the people they work with. Of course, this can be taken to the extreme of being dictatarial, but identifying influential people who personify the organization’s values, and giving them more leadership responsibilities can proliferate organizational culture and sustain a productive and engaged team.
Your role as a people manager is to understand what motivates your team and leverage those to keep them engaged and productive. The current pandemic has made it more difficult for organizations to keep their employees motivated especially as more organizations lose their talents to those offering work-from-home setups. Looking at your organization’s incentives, performance management, hierarchy, and even the informal organizational structure, are your extrinsic motivators enough to keep your team together?
Image credits: Austin Distel on Unsplash