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How to motivate the unmotivated

21 Oct


People managers face myriad challenges on a daily basis, one of which is the daunting task of reigniting motivation in employees who are seemingly disengaged from their work. Turning an unmotivated worker into a star player is a challenge many managers face, yet it isn’t impossible. Here’s how you can do it.

Understand what an engaged (and disengaged) workforce looks like


Employees can have different levels of motivation in the workplace, including actively engaged, ambivalent and actively disengaged. The former are enthusiastic and driven in the workplace, often doing more than what is expected of them in their job. Ambivalent workers are those who regularly do what is required of them in their role but are hesitant to go above and beyond, while actively disengaged employees often have a negative attitude about their work and their employer.

To determine where employees fall on the spectrum of engagement, many organisations conduct an internal employee engagement survey which can be managed by in-house HR or an external company. If you’re looking for more immediate indicators of an employee’s disengagement, the following attributes may point to a worker who is lacking motivation:

• Loss of focus during meetings and other work-related tasks
• Becoming distant from colleagues
• Increased absence from their desk and the office
• General negative or withdrawn attitude
• Reluctance to contribute to anything beyond their assigned tasks

Identify your employees’ motivators


Disengaged and unmotivated employees can be incredibly harmful to your overall workplace morale, potentially bringing others down around them and creating a less productive workplace. The best course of action is to prevent your staff from becoming disengaged in the first place, starting by understanding what motivates them at work. Different people respond to different things – be they praise, financial incentives, benefits or social activities – and managers who can identify these motivators and act on them are more likely to nurture engaged employees. If you don’t know what gets someone out of bed in the morning, ask! You might be surprised at what your team members value most in a job.

Open up lines of communication

In an ideal world, employees and employers will interact regularly and freely, communicating on workplace gripes, challenges and celebrating success. However, the modern work environment doesn’t always follow this mould, so it’s important to schedule regular meetings and catch-ups with your staff to help keep your finger on the pulse. If you suspect someone is losing morale at work, simply ask them if there is anything wrong. They may be dealing with personal problems or something completely unrelated to their job – or it could be a work issue that you can assist with. Whatever the problem, it’s important for your team to see you interested in their wellbeing and actively trying to help.

Set clear - and achievable - goals

Employees who seem to have lost their way in the workplace may simply need a realignment of their professional goals. Work with your team to create clear, defined and achievable goals that you both agree with, with milestones and deliverables outlined. This can be a great incentive for many staff members who are driven by the desire to hit targets or even over-deliver in certain areas. Rewarding employees who hit their goals can also nurture engagement, particularly if these rewards align with their motivators.

Motivated employees will ultimately contribute to the overall wellbeing of your team and company as a whole, so it’s in your best interests to ensure workers are engaged in the office. At IFDS, we have our own internal career directions framework to help provide development opportunities to all staff, plus plenty of social and charity opportunities to help drive employee engagement. Find out more about joining us here.
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