How to motivate at every layer of your organisation

Recently, we’ve been looking at Guide Dogs for the Blind – a charity that needs no introduction. As a charitable organisation, Guide Dogs for the Blind faces a greater challenge when considering staff motivation.  This is because its workforce is particularly varied – a kaleidoscopic composition of high-level program managers, full-time regulars, part-timers and many, many volunteers. So, how does an organisation like this ensure that all their staff is motivated?

It starts with getting the focus right.

James Maron, writing for Engage for Success, states the importance motivating staff with compellingly laid out visions of the future. However, not everyone’s going to have the public-speaking talents of Nelson Mandela or Winston Churchill. It’s also about creating a work culture that meets the needs of employees, that aligns with their values and gives them the opportunity to develop their skills.

Building a more nuanced appreciation of staff motivation is important, so let’s consider some tips for motivating the various layers of an organisation like Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Motivating your Managers

Lucy Adams, CEO of Disruptive HR explains that businesses are relying too heavily on money as a motivator when there are other factors which are more important. Managers want their work to be interesting and want to be challenged. Short term, money may seem like a significant motivator but it quickly falls down the list.

According to Dan Pink, the keys to motivation are autonomy, mastery and purpose. So, to motivate managers it’s important that:

  • They have control and a choice over assignments. If there are whole raft of tasks that need doing, don’t blindly assign them. Give a choice to your managers, let them own it.
  • They are given new challenges and the chance to problem solve. Managers like to feel like managers. They’ve earnt their responsibility so let them take control and master their work.
  • They are given meaning. Managers like to know how their work ties into the organisation’s success. Communicating their purpose means they’re more likely to get passionate about it.

Motivating your part-time employees

Many charities rely on part-time and casual workers for their most essential of functions – e.g. fundraising. So the idea, raised by Roubler – a budding HR company in Australia – that part-time workers are more likely to feel disconnected is quite worrying. Here are some remedies they recommend:

  • ‘Building a sense of community.’ Take advantage of meetings to allow your part-time team to feel involved.
  • ‘Mutual Understanding.’ They might not be around for long, or everyday of the week, but this doesn’t mean it’s not worth getting to know your part-timers and casuals. Knowing their likes and dislikes will help you give them tasks with which they’re more likely to be happy and excel.
  • ‘Improving perception of job security.’ Yes, flexibility is often important for part-time workers but so is job security and stability.

Motivating your volunteers

Numbering 853,000 in the UK alone as of June 2016, countless charitable organisations, including Guide Dogs for the Blind, would implode without their volunteers. Because they are unpaid, motivating them is a challenge that requires a softer touch and bit of thinking outside the box. Markel Direct UK has compiled this list with that thought in mind:

  • Show respect. Volunteers giving up their free time for free, so they’re probably going to want some respect.
  • Communicate the cause. Volunteers are there because the raison d’etre of your organisation appealed to them, so you’ve got to make sure it remains prominent in their minds and actions. Communication is the key instrument for this.
  • Have an open door policy. See above. An open door policy catalyses communication in an organisation.
  • Find common goals. This builds on the above but is slightly different. Yes, the primary reason for volunteers joining is the cause but there will be other commonalities too. Identifying and harnessing these can facilitate harmony.
  • Recognise achievement. They might not be paid but positive feedback is always welcome and helps volunteers feel valued.
  • Build team spirit. Volunteering is often an entry point for many young people into the world of work. Emphasising team spirit will make the experience less intimidating and more productive.
  • Encourage development and training. They care about your cause, so take step to show that you care about their personal growth.
  • Accommodate. Bear in mind that volunteers are likely to have other pressing matters to attend to, especially because they’re not earning any income from their work with you. So accommodate their changing schedules and availabilities with as little hesitation as possible.

Tying this all together for your full-time employees

Keeping your full-time staff motivated can be a challenge and requires you to combine your approach. Yes, it’s important they understand what is expected of them, but what’s more important, they need to understand the purpose of their work.

Piers Bishop, Co-Founder and Business Psychologist at WeThrive explains employees need to be passionate about what they do and the best way to do this is to show them how their work impacts others. Helping them find meaning in their work helps improve employee motivation long-term.

The crux of the matter – the essential takeaway – is that your strategy must be built on a contextualized understanding of your staff’s circumstances and needs. For charities, with their large volunteer contingent, this is doubly so. Every cog, no matter how small, needs its oil.

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