Product Management, Teams

Post Holiday Blues, How do you Re-motivate your Team?


Step aside summer…

With the summer holiday period coming to an end I’ve been looking back over our KPI’s for July and August. With the majority of the team on annual leave at some point over the summer, this time of year always tends to be relatively quiet for the Magic Milestones team and September always feels a bit of a fresh start for us. This led me to thinking about the best way to get everyone fully motivated as the long sunny days begin to become a distant memory.

As anyone who knows me will have heard about, I am currently halfway through studying an MBA. Work motivation is one of the subjects we covered early on so I decided to look back at some of the theories and see if there is anything there that could be useful in motivating the team and be worth sharing with you guys. It has turned into a slightly bigger exercise than I planned, so over the next three weeks I’m going to be sharing some of traditional methods and how we have been trying to adopt them. I also cover those we rejected.  My Blog Schedule is:

  1. Post Holiday Blues, How Do You Re-Motivate Your Team?
  2. The Power of Believing  in Yourself as a Motivator
  3. Kerching! Money as a Motivator

This week we’ve been looking at KPI’s for the sales team so I began discussing motivation with them. Interestingly everyone had slightly different interpretations of exactly what motivation meant to them. As we continued our chat the discussion led me to share some academic views on motivation.

Dr Craig C. Pinder, Professor of Organisational Behaviour within the Faculty of Business, University of Victoria, British Columbia describes it as ‘a set of energetic forces that originate both within as well as beyond an individual’s being, to initiate work-related behaviour and to determine its form, direction, intensity, and duration’ (Pinder (1998, p.11) cited in Latham and Pinder 2004)

We came to the conclusion that one of the most challenging aspects in any business is not only how to initially motivate employees but also how to maintain that level of motivation long term. How can managers get employees to work hard and achieve the best results that they can on a monthly basis? Businesses need continually motivated teams to be able to achieve ongoing success within their markets. All these are questions, and more, we ask ourselves at Magic Milestones on a regular basis.

Goal setting is seen as the norm within most companies today, but the idea was first put forward by Edwin Locke in the 1960’s. The concept of goals being used as motivators was then developed further by the suggestion that goals needed to be specific. Locke and Latham (2002) both claimed that by setting specific goals an employee would know exactly what is expected of them and how much effort is required. This would be much more likely to increase an individual’s level of motivation that being given vague goals with nothing to measure against, and being left to interpret them in their own way. We tried this theory and it seems to be working really well.

Other ideas about how targets can affect motivation are around how achievable the targets are seen as by the individual. Vroom’s Expectancy Theory (1964) argues that ‘the strength of our tendency to act in certain ways depends on the strength of our expectation of a given outcome.’ (Robbins & Judge 2015 pg 237)

So workplace goals need to be realistic otherwise they can have the opposite effect. For example in a sales environment, if the targets are viewed as too high, realising that achieving the targets is unrealistic can change an individual’s behaviour and reduce motivation levels significantly. This can then lead to a self-fulfilling cycle where goals are rarely hit and the individual finds it increasingly harder to recover.

However, used correctly goals do give direction and structure to a team allowing them to work more cohesively to hit given targets. The buzz the team get from achieving the targets will then help them keep momentum and stay motivated.

With this in mind, our sales team then started discussing whether the boss should set individual and team targets alone or if working together to agree targets following feedback given, would lead to happy and more motivated team. We agreed that often this would depend on the individual, but that some level of discussion or explanation around target levels would go a long way to getting people more bought in to achieving them. Locke and Latham (2002) show that most theorists agree with this.

So how can feedback help improve motivation? Ashford & Black state that active feedback seeking by employees (especially new ones) is related to high performance achievement. (Latham and Pinder, 2005 ).

Of course, feedback needs to be given at the correct moment; when something has happened or there has been a result (negative or positive), so that it will have the right impact on employees. Frese & Zapf (1994) stated that it is feedback that gives employees the understanding that enables them to achieve their targets. This shows that it is just as important to give feedback when successes happen as this helps re-inforce to employees where they should focus their energy and effort.

Over the summer break we expected things to be quieter in the sales department and the reduction in target reflected this. Of course we all know that the targets then jump back up in September and the team fully understands the reasons why. Hopefully discussing the September sales targets together and making sure we agree that although they are aimed to stretch us, they are achievable, coupled with giving constructive feedback (positive and negative) to the team about the summer performance will help ensure our team are all set with a can do attitude and high levels of motivation.  I’ll let you know next week how motivated we are all still feeling! 😉

By Helen Milanes Tidmarsh

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