How do I motivate my team during COVID-19?

I was recently giving a virtual presentation on motivation to the members of Indy SHRM and was asked:

How do you motivate your team in this COVID-fearing-socially distanced-masked-working remotely-Zoom-weary world?

Unfortunately, you cannot motivate a team or any other person. Science has proven that motivation is a psychological construct that is uniquely intrinsic to each person.

You can make individual connections with each person and if you understand what motivates them (a Reiss Motivation Profile®️ is super valuable data) you can inspire and stimulate their personal motives.

It’s not time to motivate your team. It’s time to listen to understand each contributor and get them what they each need to fuel their own motivation! Don’t assume you know what they need. Ask them!

Frederick Herzberg, Ph.D., wrote “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” in the Harvard Business Review, Sept.-Oct. 1987 issue. Herzberg speaks to extensive research showing what “hygiene” factors can contribute to job dissatisfaction. The reduction of negative work environment hygiene factors can reduce job dissatisfaction but not increase motivation and performance. Careful consideration of COVID-induced virtual workplace hygiene factors is well worth the time investment. Here’s some areas to consider given the new-abnormal environment:

Workplace Hygiene Factors to Consider to Decrease Job Dissatisfaction

  • Company Policies
  • Supervision
  • Interpersonal contact between employees
  • Working conditions
  • Salary
  • Peer collaboration
  • Work impact on personal life
  • Impact on status
  • Sense of security

Herzberg found several factors within management’s control could increase job satisfaction and encourage a worker’s intrinsic motivation.

Workplace Factors to Consider to Increase Job Satisfaction

  • Achievement opportunities (even small wins matter)
  • Recognition
  • Job enrichment
  • Workplace responsibility
  • Advancement
  • Professional development/growth

Vertical Job Enrichment

Perhaps the new reality offers an opportunity to redefine roles in-collaboration with your workers. Herzberg offered some excellent thought starters on what he termed, “Vertical Job Loading.”

  • Removing some controls while maintaining accountability for performance.
  • Increasing the accountability for individual worker contributions and quality.
  • Allowing a worker the opportunity to complete an entire natural work unit.
  • Encouraging individual autonomy and decision-making authority to workers.
  • Increase access to information regarding company performance and progress.
  • Allow employees to try more challenging tasks.
  • Allow employees to specialize and master a specific crucial task.

As COVID protocols drag on into fall and winter, it is important to acknowledge the challenges and changes as well as the opportunities and progress made during these uncertain times. Open dialogue and consensus building are two sure ways to help your team members feel heard, appreciated, respected and valued. Give your team members each a meaningful reason to care about their contribution and then watch their motivation show up to work!