Popular discussions of worker-management relations typically focus on motivation, which is the most commonly presumed method of getting employees to do their best every day. Managers seeking to encourage higher levels of performance from their teams must evaluate how the company culture promotes autonomy, flexibility and opportunities for recognition. The role of compensation requires careful attention as well, to avoid creating an environment in which employees care only about their paycheck.
Employees are more likely to feel engaged if they find their work meaningful, and have the freedom to make choices in how it's done, notes CBS Moneywatch columnist Suzanne Lucas. Allowing some degree of autonomy is more likely to gain positive results than micromanaging every part of your business. Delegating basic day-to-day tasks helps in raising morale, and frees up time that's better spent on strategic planning.
Bonuses and incentives play an important role in keeping employees motivated, but usually work best as part of a comprehensive program that provides opportunities to grow, according to an article in Entrepreneur magazine in November 2012. A carefully designed rewards program will reinforce behaviors that accomplish the company's goals and objectives, says Edward Deci, a University of Rochester motivational psychologist interviewed by the magazine. On the other hand, companies that promote incentives as ends in themselves may encourage workers to cut ethical corners to achieve them.
Condensed work schedules, flexible workweeks and telecommuting have become popular options for employees looking to balance their professional and personal lives. One measurement of these attitudes stems from the protests that greeted Yahoo's cancellation of its remote work program, which was considered a model approach, as Forbes magazine reported in February 2013. Critics of the move included David Lewin, a management professor at the University of California-Los Angeles. According to Lewin, flexible cultures actually boost productivity by sparing employees an hour or more of commuting time per day.
Although the chance to earn higher pay is important, employees also want to feel their employer cares about them personally. That's why any rewards program must provide opportunities to recognize individual effort. As Wisconsin Personnel Partners notes in its publication, Personnel Quarterly, there are many small ways to show appreciation, such as giving little gifts, praising exemplary work, or writing thank-you notes. You can also organize formal events, such as potluck dinners, to recognize specific actions that benefit the company.