Unmotivated Employees: Root Causes and Solutions
When you consider the type of organization and the way motivation problems affect each one, the blanket statement is that all organizations are susceptible. Truth be told, however, it is more prevalent in the non-profit organizations — federal, state, and local organizations. It is difficult in these cases to motivate employees when they cannot see the fruits of their labors firsthand. In for-profit organizations, it is easier for workers to see what they have helped to create. Praise comes faster, and often the organization even shares the profits with employees.
The root causes of motivational and behavior problems in a department are familiar to most managers, but keep in mind that no quick fixes exist for most of these problems. You can't implement a policy tomorrow and have the problem disappear the next day. Most problems evolved over years, and they might take years to fix. Let's look at the root causes, as well as proven methods for eliminating or at least improving the situation:
Poor communication. This is one of the top problems in all departments. Even if news is not good or pleasant for employees to hear, they will receive it better if managers communicate it properly. Meetings, notices, and clear policies on the way the organization's operations are all good places to start.
Unfair use of policies. This problem is critical. Whatever a department's polices, you must administer them fairly to everyone.
Lack of discipline and accountability. This issue is one of the most difficult to change. Employees must follow all rules, and you must hold them accountable for their actions and performance. Effective performance appraisals are a good place to begin correcting the problem.
Poor hiring practices. Junk in, junk out. Or, you get what you hire. Make sure you have job descriptions and requirements, as well as simple aptitude tests to measure and improve the quality of a new employee.
Lack of training. World-class organizations train employees 5-10 percent of total hours at work. It is difficult to write the check to address this problem, but if you do, you will reap the benefits down the road.
Lack of recognition and praise. Develop recognition programs for all employees. It doesn't take much to make people feel good about themselves. A quick "Thank you" or a pat on the back can work wonders.
Lack of planning. The more structured the work environment is, the happier and more motivated technicians will be. Weekly planning meetings and written work schedules will communicate goals and expectations, as well help the department‘s work flow progress more smoothly.
Parts and supply shortages. This problem is common to all maintenance and engineering organizations, and it is the top complaint of maintenance technicians. But it affects much more than the attitude of maintenance employees. It can harm customer satisfaction, work quality, cost of work, and the efficiency of the maintenance effort.
Limited opportunity for advancement. Even the best technicians can become demoralized quickly if they think they are in a dead-end job. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find motivation when you believe no potential for advancement exists. In such cases, it will take the best leadership minds to convince technicians to give it their all. Sometimes, leaving the department is the only fix.
Unmotivated leadership. This one can be troubling and difficult to repair in a timely fashion. Typically, the task of assembling a quality team of motivated technicians starts at the top. If the leadership and management team is suffering from the "Ain't it awful?" syndrome, the technicians will adopt the same attitude. The only way to correct this issue is to change leadership and management attitudes.
Poor leadership. Is your leadership team up to the task to do all of the above?
In case you have not realized yet, most of these motivation problems are rooted in the lack of quality leadership. Being born with leadership qualities and skills is the easiest way to succeed as leaders, but short of that, a good dose of leadership training is the next best thing.
The keys to successful motivation are to communicate often and well, treat employees fairly and openly, create more opportunities for planning and scheduling of work, and make sure the members of your leadership team are the best they can be.
Michael Cowley, CPMM is president of CE Maintenance Solutions. Cowley provides maintenance training, coaching, and consulting services to facility and manufacturing organizations nationwide, and he is a frequent speaker at national facilities management conferences.
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