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Motivating Today’s Employees with Dr. Bob Nelson

During the HR Star Conference in Atlanta on Wednesday, May 11, keynote speaker Dr. Bob Nelson spoke to over 900 HR professionals about motivating today’s employees and how companies can obtain a competitive advantage through its ROP (Return on People). He also introduced his new book Ubuntu: An Inspiring Story About an African Tradition of Teamwork and Collaboration, during an exclusive lunch sponsored by Hire Dynamics.

During Dr. Nelson’s lecture on motivating today’s employees, he revealed that the number one reason why employees leave their jobs is due to the absence of praise or recognition for the work they’ve done. A common misconception of managers today is thinking that employees are only motivated by money. Creating an environment that motivates employees not only reduces turnover and positively impacts the bottom line, but also moves the organization closer to being recognized as an “employer of choice.” So how can managers get their employees excited about coming to work? Here’s what Dr. Bob Nelson suggests:

Start with some positive restructuring – Make work fun!  Create an exciting work environment that will have your employees saying: “Thank God it’s Monday”.    Step outside of the cubicle and come up with a fun activity once a month where your employees can interact and take a break from their hectic schedule for an hour. Another option is to provide incentives for stand-out employees in hopes it will cause a chain reaction, maybe a little friendly, workplace competition. Try something new and find what fits. After all, happy employees drive happy customers. Just ask the employees at Zappos, an online shoe and apparel store. Zappos is a different kind of call center and here’s the twist – after 3 months of training, new employees are offered $3,000 to quit! And that’s not even the crazy part, 98% of them turn it down. Zappos knows how to mix work and fun while still having a positive impact on the bottom line. Not many other companies can say the same.

Another way to motivate your employees is with a little praise and words of encouragement – take the time to say “Thank you.” This is so simple, it is often over-looked. Take 15 minutes a week to send an email or stop by an employee’s desk to express your gratitude for their hard work. You can even take this to the next level by being specific. For instance, instead of just thanking someone for their hard work that week, dig deeper and point out a particular instance in which they stood out and let them know that you noticed. That way, it won’t seem like a generalized statement, it will be backed with more meaning through personal recognition and it will award them with a sense of accomplishment. As quoted in Dr. Nelson’s new book, Ubuntu: “Being busy is no excuse for avoiding the things that matter the most.” A simple “Thank You” can go a long way.

Employee appreciation feeds right into another one of Dr. Nelson’s motivational techniques – teamwork. His new book, Ubuntu, comes from an African tradition meaning “we’re all in this together.” Ubuntu is a philosophy that believes the success of the group is above and stronger than that of the individual – in essence, teamwork and collaboration. By following the Ubuntu methodology, you will help to inspire a sense of purpose, connectedness and unity among your team members. As stated in the book, Ubuntu starts with recognizing and embracing the humanity, the equality, and the value of each person. Get to know the people you work with and find out what you have in common, other than your place of work. The book reveals that this technique will help to build trust and respect, and without this, your motivational techniques might come off as manipulation. Quite often, lower-level employees feel resentment towards executives because they feel like the executives might under estimate their responsibilities, creating separation and tension within the organization. An interesting technique to consider might be role reversal. Take a walk in their shoes. You will better understand their work habits if you experience them yourself. Role reversal in the workplace will allow you both to show empathy and realize the challenges that go along with each job function, helping you to gain trust, respect and loyalty from your employees. Ubuntu helps you to understand the importance of reaching a common vision through shared experiences and empathy which will inspire and motivate your employees to give their best effort every day.

Dr. Nelson also pointed out the importance of the follow-through – don’t just talk the talk; walk the talk…Practice what you preach. For instance, if you say your goal is to achieve greater employee satisfaction, come up with a strategy and execute. Find out what your employees want through a survey or open discussion. Change is often difficult in the workplace and it might be a challenge to get everyone on board, but when it comes to change, Ubuntu offers some words of encouragement: “When you leave what is comfortable and familiar in order to take on something new and exciting, it is natural to feel unsettled and even afraid. This is where the support and collaboration of colleagues is most important.”

For more information on Dr. Bob Nelson and his new book, Ubuntu, visit his website Nelson Motivation.

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