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Employee Motivation: Defining the Facility Manager's Role

Managers share successful techniques to motivate frontline staff

By Dave Lubach, Executive Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: Employee Motivation: Measuring Success

Finding good front-line technicians and retaining them are among the biggest challenges facility managers face in their jobs today. As retirements continue and a work pool of potential replacements continues to dwindle, keeping employees engaged and motivated to stay on the job is more critical than ever before. 

But what kind of buttons do managers need to push to make this happen? What are technicians looking for to remain motivated in their positions to not only stick around but thrive and strive to better themselves in the organization? 

We talked with Advisory Board members from Building Operating Management and Facility Maintenance Decisions to get their thoughts and how they take on this challenge in their departments. The roundtable includes: 

FacilitiesNet: What role do managers play in fostering motivation? 

Cowperthwaite: Managers play a key role in knowing their team, working with them to select and assign projects and responsibilities which help them grow, and most importantly keeping them engaged. Employees are often motivated by the company culture and the managers are directly responsible for moving that culture needle in the right direction and at the right time. 

Tate: I believe managers play a huge role in motivation. The managers interact with front-line employees daily as part of their job. It’s very important for the managers to establish a personal relationship with their employees that will enable them to learn what motivates each employee as an individual. Then the managers can use this knowledge to create team building exercises for the benefit of the group. 

Smith: Leadership sets the tone impacting employee motivation. If the leader is angry, aloof, disinterested and not engaged, then why should the employee be motivated to give their very best? Morale and motivation are infectious. If everyone is engaged in accomplishing a common goal, then the success is much higher than if there is no motivation to succeed. 

Diaz: It is imperative for managers to establish precise objectives and expectations for their staff, providing them with ample opportunities to learn and grow, thereby ensuring their future success. Managers can demonstrate appreciation toward their employees by setting up programs such as Employee of the Month and employee recognition days, which acknowledge the hard work and dedication of their staff. Furthermore, managers should encourage their employees to think independently and creatively while offering flexibility with work hours to accommodate their personal needs. It is also essential for managers to demonstrate to their employees how their work contributes to the organization’s vision. By doing so, managers can encourage their staff to work toward achieving the organization’s goals and objectives, thereby promoting a sense of unity and synergy within the organization. 

FacilitiesNet: From your experience, what are the key factors that influence employee motivation? 

Smith: Culture, leadership and training. The first two go together. Leadership that creates a culture of service can get employees to do incredible things. This has always applied in the military, where service members will go above and beyond when motivated by leadership to succeed in a common goal. Training is also motivating to employees. Employees who get the opportunity to enhance their skills and learn something new are more motivated. Employees who get training feel like the organization cares for their development as a person and employee. Money, promotions, recognition and goals are all important, but not in my top three factors that influence motivation. 

Cowperthwaite: One of the key factors in employee motivation is for people to feel they are heard and valued. Being valued varies from teammate to teammate — some are motivated by visibility and responsibilities, others want to feel professional growth — but all employees need to be heard and feel they are an important, valuable part of an organization. Being valued involves meeting people in their workspace or on the job, taking time to look at their work and ideas and then engaging them in the job, creating a culture of inclusiveness and teamwork. 

Diaz: In the process of decision-making, it is of utmost importance to offer individuals support and guidance to facilitate an effective outcome. It is crucial to provide individuals with the opportunity to learn from both their successes and failures, as this will aid in their personal and professional development. Additionally, offering suggestions and ideas can prove to be beneficial while also encouraging individuals to take ownership of these ideas. By adopting such an approach, it is possible to achieve a more prosperous and fulfilling decision-making process. 

Tate: Before the pandemic I would have said benefits, company loyalty, and quality of life. Now, all of that is out of the window. It is strictly all about money. High interest rates, gas prices, food costs through the roof, I have seen employees leave for $1-2 more on the hour even though they will be driving further to work with little to no benefits. With that said, when the economy starts to be more friendly to everyday working people, I do expect things to go back to benefits, company loyalty, and quality of life simply because there are more important things in life than work. 

FacilitiesNet: Can you share some examples of successful strategies or initiatives that you have implemented to enhance employee motivation? 

Diaz: I have successfully implemented an Employee of the Month program across all three regions of our maintenance department. The program aims to recognize and reward exemplary performance and culminates in the selection of the Employee of the Year. The winner of this award will be nominated for the district’s Shining Star program, which is a prestigious recognition of exceptional Central Support Staff members of the year. The introduction of the Employee of the Month program has enabled us to set clear performance benchmarks and has motivated our employees to strive toward excellence.  

Tate: In the past, we have used picnics, fundraisers, games and other innovative ways including group training programs and awards to enhance employee motivation. We try to do all these different events in a way that showcases our employees’ knowledge and abilities in front of their peers. 

Cowperthwaite: First thing each day, go to where your frontline teams work. Don’t go to your office. Visit them in their spaces, look at what they are doing and ask questions about how difficult a job was or even just their schedule for the week. Pop in on jobsites and ask for a tour of work or what’s next. The bottom line is to go out of your way to spend time with your teams and engage with them where they work each day. 

Smith: Leaders who are hands-on have better motivated employees. Be part of the solution by either physically assisting or mentally making a difference. Sometimes employees just want to see leaders involved down in the trenches, out of their offices, going through what they have to go through. This is especially true if it is hard – tough weather conditions, complex challenges or after-hours work. Leaders should also do what they say they are going to do, like get the parts ordered on time, make sure the team has the necessary tools to be successful or get the training so employees can do the job quicker and easier. Bottom line is employees will be motivated if leadership is 100 percent engaged. 

Dave Lubach is executive editor of the facilities market.  


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Employee Motivation: Defining the Facility Manager's Role

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  posted on 4/22/2024   Article Use Policy

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