When it comes to running a successful business, it’s no longer enough to just focus on growing the bottom line. Several variables come into play when it comes to long-term success, and two of the most important aspects to take into consideration for company sustainability are employee motivation and innovation.
Often times the challenge for managers and supervisors is figuring out how to foster motivation or product innovation for their individual employees or work teams. A common management assumption is the belief that most employees show up for work only because they have to, not because they want to; therefore, they have to force or coax work out of them. As it turns out, the opposite is true.
Practices from some of the most profitable and successful companies in the world show that nurturing high employee morale and constant innovation are the keys to success. Let’s take a look at what some of these practices promote:
Research has shown that passion is a central element of the innovation process. Instead of allowing a negative, ‘have-to’ environment fester in a work team, try embracing a constructive, ‘what-can-we-do’ approach. The ‘can do’ attitude sparks imagination and creativity. As a leader an important part of your job is managing the emotions of group members, especially with regard to feelings of frustration and optimism. Simply changing the atmosphere of the workplace can speak volumes about how you value your employees, further increasing the potential for outstanding achievement.
As much as we all hear rhetoric about job titles and salaries being the big drivers of employee retention, they are just a small component of overall job satisfaction. Employees don’t care as much about titles and salaries as you might think. There are several other high value propositions for employees that are somewhat surprisingly, low- or no-cost options you can provide without hurting the bottom line.
Some of these job-related benefits include flexibility in work hours, the option to work remotely, and flexibility in job responsibilities, autonomy and execution of work. Aside from these areas of opportunity, most employees want three things in the workplace: to be heard, to be appreciated, and to be challenged.
With each passing year business has come to better understand that positive environments and meaningful work produce happier and more efficient employees. Employees who report that their opinion and ideas matter to their employer also confirm higher levels of engagement and satisfaction at work. Creating a forum of open exchange of information and ideas between managers and workers, and managers and executives is an important strategy.
Be open to ideas from all employees, regardless of job role or description. You never know where your next big business break is going to come from. Most importantly, don’t just listen to your employees’ ideas and grievances; actually do something with the information to make your workplace and products better. Remember, when a business shuts down the flow of information from their employees, they begin the cycle of extinction.
One obvious course of action for making your employees feel appreciated is to provide incentives for good work, like friendly competitions or small prizes for finishing a project before it’s due.
However, it’s often the free rewards that provide even better long term results. Simply recognizing employees for a job well done, either private or public, is a surefire way to boost morale. Deciding whether to make a public announcement to the office or send a quiet ‘great job’ email is about understanding your employee’s preference before you celebrate their success. The more you know what’s important to your employees, the easier it is for your actions to translate into genuine appreciation.
It’s a simple fact of life: mundane day-to-day work bores people. Employees need variety, and a break from their regular jobs, even if their break is working on something else. Mix it up with team projects, introduce inter-departmental co-ops or provide stretch assignments for an eager employee.
An added benefit of having a variety of responsibilities and projects is keeping your employees on their toes. When they feel challenged and rise to the occasion, your employees are at their best.
As a race, we strive for more with every passing generation. Central to our sociological make up is the drive to innovate for survival and evolution. The same holds true for industry. If businesses can’t establish a way to drive change through innovation, their products, services, technologies, and existence, become obsolete. They are surpassed by the companies that are constantly reinventing themselves.
While almost every employer will concede that innovation drives competition and pushes boundaries, many fail to see the impact on their own business. They become comfortable in what they know, allowing for complacency to erode their business model. Doing what you do well is simply not enough. Without a constant eye on how you could do exponentially better, you set your business up to lose significance in your industry.
If you want to stay relevant as a business leader ask yourself, what can you do in your role to better understand the market and your competition? What processes can you reinvent to be more efficient or create major value adds to your customer? Can you combine products to make a convenient hybrid super-product that will blow your competition away? What skills do you need to hone for yourself or your team that will position you for the next level of excellence? It is important to exercise professional introspection, that’s what builds business acumen to help keep you on top of your game.
Top corporations and top leaders constantly innovate, even if it means that the endeavors are sometimes fruitless and profitless. Although there shouldn’t be much that we do in business just for the sake of doing it, when it comes to innovation, the mere act of focused idea generation will keep your company in the habit of producing new concepts and fostering creativity, which could become very profitable. A planned project may not turn out as planned, but it also may turn out better than planned.
When it comes down to it, innovation and motivation go hand in hand. Motivation sparks innovation, which motivates. Start one, nurture the other, and watch your company and employees flourish.
Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for VeteransUnited.com.