How Do You Motivate Office Staff?

Lynn Homisak, PRT

Motivating your employees is not always as simple as writing a check or a form letter thanking them for their service. This author draws on real-life scenarios to present the most effective ways of encouraging staff to perform to the best of their abilities, and provides advice on avoiding the inherent pitfalls.

Wouldn’t it be great if the answer to this question were as easy as pulling out your trusted Employee Cookbook and following a recipe? Let’s see. What ingredients will I need to make a “motivated employee?” Ah, here it is! Start with a fair amount of wages and a generous portion of necessary training. Toss in a few measureable goals, a dash of recognition and plenty of support. Then gently fold in large quantities of honest praise and appreciation, place it in a pleasant social and physical environment with plenty of room to grow and voila! A first-rate employee rises to perfection.

   That is basically it in a nutshell but is this formula foolproof? Well, like any good recipe, following directions to a “T” will help ensure success while cutting corners, substituting quality or omitting ingredients usually leads to a flop.

   When we read about motivation or building staff morale, it is no surprise that survey after survey shows that employees would prefer working in an environment like the one mentioned above and some doctors, to their credit, understand that these factors provide the foundation for a satisfied staff. This is the very mechanism that sparks increased productivity, improved performance and motivation. It is a win-win path to a successful practice.

   It is the point at which these management-conscious doctors feel they need to energize their staff even more to avoid complacency that they ask, “Now what? What else can I do to sustain motivation and tap into their true potential? This is a fair question. Yet if you ask 25 different people what type of motivational tool works best to propel staff to achieve above and beyond expectations, you will likely get 25 different responses. Some tools will work some of the time but none of them will be effective across the board all the time with all employees.

   In my travels, I have encountered the most creative and the most absurd incentive plans. Here is the simple truth. The most attractive, genuine motivator, the very critical icing on the cake that is often overlooked, is tapping into who your staff people are.

   Often, employers forget that the members of their team are people first, employees second. Each individual has his or her own unique set of characteristics that push or motivate him or her into action. Given that these distinctive drivers are heavily rooted in their own social and family values, philosophies, religion, attitudes and perceptions, it makes it easy to understand why they are all so diverse. Likes and dislikes vary as do people’s behaviors, skills, strengths and weaknesses. Maybe the only thing they have in common is that they all work in the same office.

   What is the bottom line? There is no “surefire” recipe, not one guaranteed way you can entice staff to work harder, not one kind of homogeneous carrot you can dangle on the end of a string that is guaranteed to knock all their socks off. Those who believe in a unilateral mentality and insist that a one of a kind tactic works in all cases are usually left confused and even a little resentful when their well-intentioned and sometimes expensive efforts do not result in an outpouring of appreciation. I have seen cases like this “flop” over and over again. Maybe you can even relate to one or two of them.

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