Posted on / Updated on / in Blog & Employee Morale /

Believe it or not, football practice is just around the corner, and for all of you Louisville fans out there, we’ve got a fiery new coach filling his players full of the kind of motivation we need for a great season.

I love Louisville, but I’m also a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I have the officially licensed Troy Polamalu jersey, the “terrible towel,” and a nerf football with the team logo on it. As you can imagine, I was pretty disappointed with this past season.

Coming down from the Super Bowl high of last season to watching a team that couldn’t close a game was very frustrating. I came across an article the other day written by another diehard Steelers fan trying to put to paper his thoughts on what happened in 2009. He gave two possible explanations, one being injuries and the other being the change in their hard-nosed running offense to a bleak passing attack. I was still puzzled. How could a team as talented as the Pittsburgh Steelers perform so poorly? It didn’t make sense.

So here’s my take. I think the root of the problem is very simple. It stems from a lack of motivation.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is the activation of goal-oriented behavior. Without it, you can’t reach your goal. The same is true in most companies today. More and more companies are asking their employees to do more with less, but in the process are creating disengaged employees who are not performing at their peak and are often times even de-motivated. Unless employees are engaged, the company cannot be successful. The Pittsburgh Steelers discovered that first hand.

Here are 5 simple steps you can use to get your employees engaged and work more effectively as a team:

1. Set Clear Expectations
Employees need to know what is expected of them and how their role fits into the big picture. As in a football team, they need to know what position they play, when they are to play it, how they are to play it, and what exceptional performance looks like.

2. Recognize and Reward Outstanding Performance
Wouldn’t it be strange to go to a football game where the fans cheered only when each team scored? Of course it would, because fans cheer each time the ball is moved down the field. Don’t wait and reward only one employee with the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, cheer the progress of all employees regularly. Remember, when a team wins a Super Bowl, everybody gets a ring!

3. Open the Lines of Communication
Football coaches and coordinators are constantly communicating with the team players throughout the game. They let them know what obstacles they may encounter and how to work around those obstacles. Players also communicate back to the coaches.

For example, the offensive coordinator can communicate to the quarterback what he is seeing from the stands, and the quarterback can communicate back what he sees on the field. Employees need to know that they are not playing alone. They need to feel that their opinions and ideas are respected and listened to. Don’t make the mistake of only barking orders through your headset from your booth in the stands – make sure you are listening, too!

4. Invest in Your Employees’ Development
You don’t become a starting quarterback overnight. The coach works hard to develop 2nd and 3rd string quarterbacks to step into that role one day. Make sure that you regularly discuss career goals and development opportunities with your employees. Consider succession planning where appropriate.

5. Set Compensation and Benefits at a Level That Demonstrates Your Commitment
Money is ultimately not a motivator.  In fact it shows diminishing returns at a certain level depending on the job, but setting pay and benefits at a competitive rate will go a long way in communicating your commitment to your employees.  If they feel you are paying them what they are worth, they will feel as if their talents are recognized, and they will respond naturally with better performance.

Now I am not saying to pay them all at the NFL rate, but make sure you do a market analysis to make sure what you are paying is keeping up with market trends.  If you can’t afford what a certain position demands, it might not be the right time to hire.

Employee engagement is all about commitment and direction. If employees are given clear instructions and feel valued and respected, your company will score touchdowns every day.

Is motivation suffering in your workplace?  Are you doing all you can to keep your employees happy?  It may have a larger effect that you think.  Give us a call today at 877-753-0970, or just leave us a comment with your question.  We’ll be glad to help.

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about the author: Amy Letke

Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success.