Motivation in the workplace is the same as motivation anywhere else — it comes from caring and feeling cared for. After a year of only seeing your team via screens or above masks, however, it can be hard to tap into that sense of care.
In the New York Times, organizational psychologist Adam Grant posited a word for this feeling: Languishing. Not quite depression, but certainly not flourishing — where “you have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others” — languishing is the “absence of well-being.” It also might be the biggest threat facing employers in 2021.
The article goes on to suggest a remedy to languishing in the form of flow, being totally captivated by your work and absorbed in the moment. At Limeade, we would argue that to achieve that state and beat back languishing, you have to start with something simpler. You have to start with care.
Why care is key to workplace motivation
If Grant is right, and “meaning, mastery and mattering” are the keys to flourishing — and thus to the workplace motivation we desperately need — care can solve for two out of three. When you care for something, you derive meaning from it. When you are cared for, you have a sense of mattering. All employees have to do is bring their mastery of the task at hand, and you have a motivated workforce ready to move through the day with purpose.
We know employees who feel care do better work. They’re 53% more likely to stay with their company for more than three years and 51% more likely to feel personally engaged in their work than those who don’t feel care, according to Limeade research. They’re also 40% less likely to feel burned out — a critical factor in limiting turnover.
Company care is a two-way street. It requires action from both employers and employees. But when done right, it has the opportunity to improve both people and business results.
What managers can do to improve motivation in the workplace
Managers are the most direct representative of the company for their teams, and thus the best opportunity to demonstrate company care. Giving managers the training to communicate empathetically with employees — and the tools to support those employees through their well-being journey — is the first front in showing employees care.
Managers also have an opportunity to create the conditions for that ideal state of “flow” Grant talks about in his article. By influencing the environments where your employees work, you can reduce the amount of interruptions and distractions that populate their day. In an office, this might be reducing noise or foot traffic, where for remote employees it might be about minimizing chat programs or scheduling meeting-free days.
How company leaders can act as examples of motivation in the workplace
With managers providing care to employees on an interpersonal level, companies can provide the organizational support that creates a feeling of all-encompassing care. That starts with leadership, the people who have the authority to establish norms across the entire company.
Encouraging leaders to model care through everyday actions — like taking lunch breaks and vacations, scheduling walking meetings, and setting email boundaries — shows employees that care is valued and practiced at the highest level. If they want to become leaders in the company one day, they too will act with care toward themselves and each other.
Structurally, a company can increase motivation at work by building care into how it functions. That may look like sharing data across groups, providing professional development opportunities or encouraging company-wide volunteering.
Whatever the decision, its effects should be tangible and accessible. Making sure employees have an easy-to-use platform, where they can see all of the HR initiatives pulled together and engage with the company mission and values, will help care to become an act instead of a feeling. When companies intentionally surround their employees with care, employees are better equipped to reciprocate it.
Engaging the employee to increase motivation at work
Companies can — and should — encourage care from the top down, but the best way of motivating employees in the workplace comes from the bottom up. Creating a culture of care is as much about giving employees the tools to support each other as it is about demonstrating care for them.
Creating support networks and connecting employees across business groups gives them a way to maintain motivation in the workplace. Employee Resource Groups help them find like-minded people they can turn to when they need a jolt of support, and tools like the Limeade platform create a digital space where employees can cheer each other on.
Peer support is critical to creating a positive employee experience and the business outcomes that come with it. When you help your employees connect socially, you’re bringing purpose to their work. It gives them a way to express that sense of meaning and experience the motivation that comes with it.
How motivation in the workplace propels better outcomes
Company care creates the conditions employees need to feel motivated — motivated to engage more fully in their work and to positively change their behaviors. It acts as a reinforcing mechanism:
- Employees become more aware of the benefits of certain behaviors
- They experience the resilience, optimism and efficacy that creates a mindset for change
- They feel motivated to change
- They’re supported and held accountable as they pursue new behaviors
This, ultimately, is how company care and the Limeade Results Model works, by creating positive cycles of change and the motivation to move through them. If you’re interested in learning more about motivating your employees, please get in touch for a demo today.