Raise The Excitement Level Of Your Employees… Because Employee Engagement Has Lower Impacts (So managers must accept responsibility for increasing employee excitement)

Managers receive many benefits after they learn how to create higher levels of employee excitement.

For a manager, there are few things more stimulating than working closely with a team full of highly energized and excited employees. Workers that, because of their usual high energy and excitement levels, are eager to meet and exceed every personal and team goal related to their job.

Unfortunately, for years most managers and HR have only been exclusively aiming at a lower target of improving employee engagement (i.e., employee commitment, loyalty, and attachment to their organization). However, most managers have yet to realize that even with elevated levels of employee engagement and connection to the organization.

It is still possible for engaged employees to produce only an average amount of work. Because despite their close connection. At the job level, they may still need to experience the specific factors that truly make their work exciting (i.e., supporting their ideas, job enrichment, and chances to lead).

So to me, with this realization, it’s time for every smart talent leader to move beyond being satisfied with employee engagement. Raise expectations to the next highest level of employee drive and motivation, which is the level of excitement and energy that an employee brings to their job every day. Because that raised excitement level will result in the largest business impacts (i.e., more and better work getting done faster, as well as higher rates of retention and innovation). At the same time, it will also make a manager’s job significantly easier.

How To Raise Employee Excitement Levels And Its Benefits

I recommend that managers focus on increasing employee “excitement levels,” which can usually be raised in one of three ways. First, by adding elements of work that the individual finds exciting.

Next, by modifying or changing their current work features (i.e., how often they interact with executives). So that these work features add more excitement. And finally, by eliminating de-energizing work factors that the employer finds to be frustrating or boring (i.e., requiring extensive travel). That might even be powerful enough to actually de-energize this employee.

And by taking these three action categories, the employee will raise their level of excitement. And that can be seen during slack times. Employees “without being told” will seek out additional work. Also, because of their maximum energy level. Each employee will improve their work volume, speed, work quality, and their level of innovation. As a side benefit, managers can now spend less time cajoling them and having to monitor their work.

Prove That Managers Don’t Know Your Motivators… With This Simple “What Motivates Me Test.”

Yes, I bet your boss doesn’t know what motivates you. Because research shows that most managers are completely in the dark about which specific work factors excite individual employees.

You can test this “assumption of manager ignorance” by creating your own ranked list of the key work factors that excite, energize, and motivate you. And then, ask your boss to independently create their own ranked list of work factors that they believe actually motivate you.

When you compare the two lists, you will inevitably find that your boss literally has no clue about which top job factors actually excite/motivate you. IF you probe your manager a little bit further. You may also find that your manager doesn’t even consider proactively increasing your excitement level to be included in their top responsibilities.

Signs Of Low Excitement Levels Are Everywhere, But No One Accepts Responsibility For Them

Recently, nearly everyone has read about the prevalence of situations where employees (mostly from recent generations) purposely avoid work. Examples include “Quiet Quitting,” where employees just do the minimum level of work so that they avoid being fired. Also, there are “Bare Minimum Mondays,” where employees start out the first day of every week purposely avoiding all significant work. Finally, “The Great Resignation,” which was in no small part caused by employees continuously experiencing way too much unexciting and unchallenging work.

However, I have found that most of these efforts to avoid work result from job content that the employee doesn’t find very exciting or stimulating. I have also found evidence that increasing the number of “excitement factors” in each employee’s job will significantly increase their excitement and energy levels while at the same time reducing their “avoiding work behaviors.”

I was also surprised when I learned during my research that individual managers and HR generally wouldn’t accept responsibility for proactively motivating/exciting individual employees. And the rare case where someone does accept responsibility, they don’t know precisely which factors motivate or excite each employee.

HR is, unfortunately, little help. Because it has no “motivation or job enrichment department.” And the compensation function adds little, because it only motivates with money. And in most cases, HR generalists are often too overworked to spend any time on individual worker motivation. And perhaps, HR’s biggest failure is that it doesn’t ensure that there is a motivation profile in each employee’s personnel file. This can help all new managers of this employee understand their motivators and frustrators. Finally, HR has no formal process for guiding managers in identifying and implementing the specific action steps for making an employee’s work more exciting.

A Quick And Simple Way To Measure Excitement Levels

There are several ways to measure employee excitement levels, but I prefer this one. Which is where you anonymously survey each employee. Then, you ask them to list the number of days during the last month when they went to bed and mentally looked forward to at least one exciting aspect of the work they would do the next day. Unfortunately, most employees will claim zero days. However, a long time ago, one Facebook employee told me that they positively thought about the next day of work every day prior to an upcoming workday.

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Actions That A Manager Can Take To Raise Their Employee Excitement Levels

There are many ways to improve employee excitement levels. However, the best approach for each individual manager must be tailored to their culture and current level of employee excitement. So rather than a comprehensive plan, I am including multiple action items proven to help raise employee excitement and energy levels.

  • Begin by having the project lead understand the difficulty of overcoming a legacy of management control – even when managers learn how and where their employees want to spend most of their time. Many managers may still be reluctant to let it happen because of their history of allocating work tasks without a shred of employee input.
  • Educate your managers, so they don’t confuse excitement with passion and happiness –managers should note that there are two related motivation areas that are sometimes confused with employee excitement levels. The first is “being passionate about your work,” which is problematic because passion is an internal motivator that is difficult for an individual manager to raise. A second area where confusion occurs is happiness because it’s a mistake to assume that “happy employees” automatically produce more work. Unfortunately, your employees may be happy simply because little work is required from them.
  • Require managers to create motivation/excitement profiles – the best way to ensure that managers will develop these essential excitement profiles is to require them. But also make getting high excitement levels from their employee surveys one of their performance appraisal factors.
  • Prompt their memory with a list of work excitement factors – when you ask employees to list their motivation/excitement factors. Some will, unfortunately, draw a blank. So, you can speed up the creation of their lists by providing them with a complete list of the common excitement factors that others in their job family have previously mentioned.
  • Focus your excitement efforts on work factors – the manager should focus their attempts to excite their team members on non-compensation work-related factors. And that focus generally includes job duties, work environment, work schedule, and who they work with. Additional excitement factors might include part-time rotations, working with executives/customers, increased exposure, opportunities to lead, and their chosen learning opportunities.
  • Hire different people – although they may not be a majority of the available workforce. For any individual team, there are more than enough “high-energy candidates” available. And the best way to find them is through employee referrals. And you make one of your focus areas identifying referrals that an employee has worked with that has demonstrated an ingrained and exceptionally high energy level at work. Next, ask each reference to rank the candidate’s top qualities and expect “self-motivated” to be among the top ones. They also won’t need to be reminded or cajoled into putting out maximum effort. The same benefits probably come for hiring those candidates that are “purpose-driven” or committed to service because the impact of the work alone will likely cause them to maintain a consistently high work and excitement level.
  • How you can you identify an excited/energized employee – the most accurate way is by their past and current actions and work behaviors. They include seeking out additional work when theirs is completed, doing the hard stuff first, not stopping until it is done, and accepting ownership of problems no one else claims. They volunteer for difficult assignments and never let “roadblocks” stop them from meeting goals. Also, when you ask them what they need to increase their motivation, they respond with nothing else.
  • Assume that motivation and excitement vary with the individual – avoid stereotyping what motivates/excites large groups based on race, gender, age, or national origin. Instead, assume that every individual is excited or energized by a unique list of factors.
  • Assume that motivators and excitement factors periodically change – you should assume that employees’ excitement factors will change over time, especially because of changes in external factors like family issues, health, economic needs, career goals, the need for security, and the number of years before retirement. And because these factors change, you must periodically re-survey each employee to determine their current excitement factors.
  • Release those that haven’t increased their excitement levels – after you have applied several of their top excitement factors to an individual employee. And their excitement and productivity levels only increase slightly. Find a way to replace them with someone who can reach higher excitement levels and work output.
  • When time is limited, focus on top performers and retention risks – the most effective approach is a formal process that collects the profiles of every team member. But if a manager has limited time and resources, they can informally focus on the team members that are either high performers or that are considered “a flight risk.”

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If you only do one thing – try the simple “what motivates you” comparison test on one or more self-assured managers. And then use their lack of knowledge about the actual employee motivators to get the attention of additional managers.

Possible Implementation Steps

You should create a plan that includes most of these implementation steps.

  • Start with implementing an HR policy that allows managers to “change a worker’s role and time allocation” – Those in HR must realize that jobs can no longer be 100% uniform and unchanging across the company. So, HR must take proactive actions that allow individual managers the authority. For example, periodically shift an individual employee’s time on each of the various duties outlined in the corporate job description. This policy should also allow managers to add up to 10% of additional tasks (with the permission of HR and the employee).
  • Select one “pilot employee” and ask them to chart where they currently spend their time – to get a benchmark level. Ask your top employee to take notes on how much time they spend on each assigned task. Also, note any tasks they are doing that are not currently in the job description. You might also ask the employee to estimate their ideal time allocation for each task under normal and during crisis and rush time periods.
  • Modify one task for this pilot employee – ask the pilot employee to select one work task that is extremely important to them. And if the team’s capabilities allow for it, increase the employee’s time on that task by at least 25%. Next, ask them to select one work area that will completely shift to someone else. Check back in a few weeks to assess the results of the pilot as well as any problems. If everything goes well, roll out the entire process for every member of the manager’s team.
  • Begin by asking each employee to propose an initial task and time allocation – at least initially, shift the ownership of the work allocation problem to the employee. And ask them to create the first draft of their time allocation proposal. Start by asking them to name the tasks that they want to “do more of.” Once you settle on the tasks, together, work out the increase and decrease in time allocations for each remaining task. Ask the employee to make proposals regarding other relevant elements of this employee’s work. Including who they would work with, when and where the work would be done, and the strategy and the tools to be used.
  • Ask for each employee’s input on who should do the discarded work – because this employee has likely seen when “fill in labor” was used to fill in parts of their job. So ask the employee and other team members for suggestions on how best the discarded work can be done.
  • After two months, solicit feedback – in order to identify improvement areas and to measure any initial improvement in team performance.
  • Finally, change onboarding so that it identifies “best work” factors – add a segment to your onboarding process to proactively capture their positive and the negative “best work” job tasks from the new hire’s perspective. Onboarding should also capture the reasons why this individual quit their last job. So that their new manager can more quickly understand them.

Final Thoughts

Although providing a formal process for identifying the motivators of individual employees is not new (Baptist Hospital in Pensacola and the University of Colorado at Boulder have done it). It is, unfortunately, still rare. And when you implement one, don’t be surprised when you get an awkward response from some employees. Because this is the first time that anyone seemed to actually care about their excitement and motivation factors. But with a little coaching, most will be able to rank their factors.

The next problem area that you are likely to encounter will be the fact that many managers simply won’t know how to effectively implement the work changes that will increase employee excitement levels. So, HR should appoint a person that will be responsible for identifying all of the best excitement-increasing practices. Then, proactively share them with all managers as one final test of the effectiveness of your raising employee excitement levels. Conduct a before and after survey of your team members. And determine by how much the percentage that said that “they were currently doing the best work of their life” had increased.

Author’s Note

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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