In times of skill shortages, employees need more than an impressive pay deal, prestigious job title and package of perks to stay interested in their current position for a reasonable length of time. People are also working longer. With a working week of sometimes over 60 hours, their decision is often not whether they are fulfilled in their job but how motivated they feel. Much of this depends on how they relate to you – the boss. Do you captivate or do you demotivate?


It’s a reality of office life that employees will at some point face a degree of criticism. Managers must be mindful when correcting behaviour or when coaching or training, that they aren’t focusing on the negative aspects, rather than offering advice and appreciating the positive. Employees who constantly feel put down, dread the thought of going into work and facing another day of constantly being criticized.

Experts in training and human resources management say the problem arises when managers miss in the translation when giving feedback and should be more receptive to how employees react under different circumstances. Inexperienced managers say ‘That was rubbish’ and give no feedback – which makes employees feel low. Everyone doesn’t have the same threshold to criticism or ‘teasing’ from managers and colleagues.

Attention & appreciation

When people are not shown recognition for their work, they turn the tables onto themselves and become self-critical. Yet everyone likes to know how they’re doing. When they’re not sure, they can become their own worst critics. Eventually, this can result in resignation. It’s important to say ‘well done’ and ‘thank-you’. And when you have a star employee, the worst thing you can do is take their performance for granted. Without a sign of appreciation, they will think all their hard work and effort is for nothing.

Praise and pay

Praise your employees appropriately and value their accomplishments. Praise becomes ineffective when it is delayed or without purpose or overdone. Ineffective managers are more likely to give ‘dead end’ praise when they don’t know how to handle a member of staff. Over-praising occurs when you have an emotional employee who finds it difficult to accept constructive criticism. Managers also make the mistake of using what’s known as a ‘praise sandwich’, where they praise before and after the reprimand. People then often don’t listen to the criticism in the middle.

It’s is important that people are singled out for their achievements in team situations. When people are automatically included in their colleagues’ praise, the high performers are at risk of being demotivated. Managers must also be aware of not praising people for doing everyday assignments that they should be completing anyway. When people do the same amount work as their colleagues and then get praised for it, they may see no reason to take on more responsibility.

Although pay reviews are effective, they’re not the only means of motivation. Employers need to use other means of motivation to complement a pay review. Many companies rely on the pay review without looking into the deeper issues. Out of people who are counter-offered by their present company as a motivation to stay, 75% leave within six months.

Trying hard?

Do your employees try hard? Are they given challenging tasks? Are you utilizing their capabilities? Goals and challenges keep people working at their optimum level. Goal-setting plays a pivotal role. People need to be pushed forward as they have a tendency to get stale. It’s a chance to move somewhere and be rewarded for success. Goals help you know what you need to do to get into the peak performance club.


Employees need to see the reasoning behind certain tasks, otherwise they fail to see the need to complete the task accurately and may simply get the job over and done with as quickly as possible. They may not invest the time to do it properly. Delegation is supposed to be empowering and motivational and unless people know the purpose of a task, there is a tendency to feel dumped on.

Productive meetings, where information is shared freely, are critical. Motivation comes from the external environment. When a team pulls in the same direction, by helping each other and communicating, they are harnessing each other’s strengths to achieve the similar goals.


Variety, when appropriate, can add life to a monotonous task or role. The hidden danger is when an abstract motivational course like rock climbing is planned without prior consideration of what would suit your staff. Fun and variety is great when it breaks the monotony of routine. However, it must be a comfortable transition for all those concerned. If you are planning events such as outward-bound courses or tests of physical endurance, check that people will not fear being humiliated or unreasonably put-upon. Poorly thought-out courses for variety’s sake can be counteractive.


Workplaces bogged down with company politics and unnecessary rules create a strained atmosphere where employees either resent their manager for enforcing such rules or get continually frustrated by protocols. A bad atmosphere is created from rules so strict that employees feel they are walking on eggshells – this can be combated by encouraging communication through team meetings and encouraging better goal-setting through personal development.

Tug of war?

Although healthy competition between workers is often seen as healthy, unfair internal competition can promote favouritism from managers and make less aggressive workers feel left out. Competition, when harnessed the right way, can keep employees on their toes. It’s when employees turn on each other that competition becomes demotivational. To keep competition healthy and motivational, don’t take it too seriously and make sure you encourage the employees who aren’t doing so well. Colleagues turn on each other when they see an employer take a stance and favour one team more. Barking at those who don’t work well under those conditions creates more problems than it solves.


Realistic goal setting and ideals are great motivators to meet the standards of the rest of the company and excel within the framework. Expectations are as simple as letting people know what time you would like them to arrive in the morning to the format of reports and ‘company style’. You can hardly expect someone to meet your needs when they don’t know the expected standards. If necessary, document these minimum standards if this does not create too much paperwork.

There is no ready formula to create the perfect employee. There are techniques you can implement to lessen the drawbacks for your team. Everybody is an individual and people are motivated in different ways. The most essential ingredient in order to captivate is communication, including listening. Listening to individual needs and communication between the team are key.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at any time should you have any questions regarding the contained information, or require any recruitment assistance