It's Time to Hit Your Refresh Button

If you’ve been an executive long enough, you’ve probably noticed trends in employee productivity and happiness. At the height of summer, in the middle of the holiday season, and maybe on cold, rainy days - there are definite slumps in motivation around any office.

However, if you’re seeing a marked decrease in productivity and employee happiness unassociated with the weather or time of year, pay attention. Over time, decreased productivity and employee satisfaction can lead to:

  • Decreased output
  • Missed or delayed deadlines
  • Lower employee retention
  • Decreased profits and growth

As an executive, it’s your job to target the cause of this slump and to reverse it if you can. Of course, these slumps can happen for any number of reasons.

Why is Employee Motivation Decreasing?

If you’ve ruled out the weather and the time of year, you’re probably wondering what actually caused your employees to seem uninterested and unproductive. To help get to the root of the issue, ask yourself:

  • Have any policies changed recently? Have I considered how they affect my team?
  • Was the company recently restructured? Is there some job insecurity?
  • Was there a recent employee review? How many people had negative reviews?
  • Is there a situation that has not been resolved among team members?
  • Have I or other leaders given enough direction on a new project?
  • Have we connected with our employees recently?

It can be hard to put yourself in your employees’ shoes, but it’s a necessary step. If something pops up when you’re reviewing these questions, work to address the situation immediately. You can also ask a few trusted employees if something is going on that is affecting the team at large.

Once you have an answer, it’s time to get to work.

How to Increase Employee Motivation

Now that you’ve got an idea of why your team feels stagnant, it’s time to work on reversing that inertia. For example, if your team is working on a long-term project that seems to be going nowhere, you might try to:

  • Incentivize deliverables. “If you turn in this deliverable early, I can award you with half a day of paid time off/[insert other incentive].” Don’t do this for every deliverable, but use it to kickstart energy.

  • Brainstorm as a team. Call a meeting and ask how the team can make progress on the project. “How could the team make this project easier/faster? What are we doing now that is slowing it down?” Simply starting the conversation could get more motivation flowing.

  • Give them a glimpse of the big picture. Tell an employee how their specific task could result in a huge contract, or show how a specific product launch could totally change the industry. Sometimes, the menial tasks that employees do get lost in translation, so make it clear why they’re doing it.

If there are other concerns in your organization, such as job insecurity or a general unhappiness with corporate policies, it might be better to:

  • Focus on small victories. When your team completes a project, celebrate with a small pizza party or by having a quiet “housekeeping” day. Of course, not every small win needs to have a celebration, but it can help keep your team’s spirits up.

  • Give them your perspective. If there are new changes coming down the pipes, employees may be concerned about their jobs. Let them see your excitement for the changes and show them a few ways the changes mean positive things for the organization.

Emotional Intelligence is Important

As an executive, you’ve probably studied Emotional Intelligence and all of the ways it  can make your job easier. This is one of those instances. When you start to notice an unusual downshift in productivity or employee satisfaction, your EI will tell you: “We need to fix this.”

In short, pay attention to your employees and what they’re working on. If they don’t seem happy or interested, it’s time to pull out your executive toolbox to help them get back on track.