Researchers who study organizational dynamics have found that most workplace teams tend to move through cycles of high and low motivation. Today, with many industries facing tough realities and the economy faltering, it’s no wonder that some employees may be having a hard time working up their enthusiasm.
But while cycles of low employee motivation may be a difficult but workable challenge for firms in some industries, they can be downright deadly in sales-based sectors. While unmotivated factory workers might produce one or two fewer widgets per hour, for example, they’re still able to perform their basic tasks with a baseline level of competence.
In the sales space, however, success is predicated almost entirely on each team member’s motivation, diligence, and attitude. If even one member of your sales team slacks off a bit, your bottom line could suffer significantly. And as research has shown—and as most managers can personally attest—low morale often spreads like an infectious disease.
Even one unhappy employee can cause the entire team’s morale to suffer—and that’s a chance most VARs can’t afford to take. But on the other hand, spending thousands on traditional motivation tactics like plush perks or pay raises may not be particularly prudent at this juncture, either.
If this dilemma sounds familiar, don’t despair. If you think your team could use a pick-me-up right about now, there are hundreds of free and low-cost motivation tools that can help. Here are just a few ideas to help kick off your brainstorming session.
Develop strategies to increase employees’ investment and buy-in. According to the experts, disengagement and alienation both play a key factor in low employee morale. Although there is some debate whether low morale causes disengagement or vice-versa, experts agree that morale rises when employee engagement rises. Work on devising new ways to increase your employees’ sense of ownership in the business, such as assigning more autonomy and direct responsibility to each team member or implementing a merit-based bonus plan.
Establish a regular meeting to brainstorm and discuss employees’ ideas. Motivation researchers say that employees have higher morale when they feel like they have a voice in the company. Schedule an ongoing brainstorming session during which employees propose strategies and ideas. Make a point of thanking your team members for their input.
Adopt policies and practices that promote work-life balance. The clash between family and work responsibilities can be a major drag on employee motivation. Strategies like flexible scheduling, job sharing, part-time or full-time telecommuting, or shortened workweeks are all great ways to increase morale. Work with your team members to devise work-life policies that meet their unique needs.
Publicly recognize excellent performance. Take time out to shine a spotlight on team members who go above and beyond the call of duty. Write thank-you notes, hand out prizes, plaques, and certificates, award extra paid vacation days, and assign special privileges to employees whose performance exceeds expectations. Name-check top performers at all-hands meetings and other workplace gatherings.
Use fun to break up the routine. Monotony can really put a hamper on employee motivation. Inject some energy into your workplace with some unexpected breaks from the norm. Extend a holiday weekend with an extra day off, or call it quits a few hours early on a Friday afternoon. Alternately, group outings, catered meetings, or pizza delivery are also great ways to have fun and shake up the routine for relatively little cash. Try to connect the dots between these surprises and the team’s outstanding performance whenever possible.
How is your team’s morale holding up these days? Do you have any suggestions for free or low-cost motivation techniques? Chime in with your thoughts in the comments.