Whether working on-site, on the road or remotely, one of the biggest concerns facing leaders today is whether their team is actually working when they say they are. We have all heard the stories of employees supposedly working from home who are shirking their responsibilities and starting a side hustle, using work hours to complete housework or gaming – all on their employer’s time and dime.
While this may be the case in some instances, other employees try to prove their productivity and loyalty by working even harder. The challenge of trying to go above and beyond when your work isn’t visible has forced caring employees to work longer and more productively in an effort to see their work have meaning, impact and to help support organisations who may have experienced a tough year.
Ultimately the question great leaders should be asking is not what your employees are really doing when you are not watching – but rather how you can sufficiently motivate and inspire your team. By shifting your perspective, you will start to focus your energy on building a high-performance team that can work from anywhere, anytime without supervision.
1.Hire people who thrive when given autonomy
When there is a strong need to hire team members to work autonomously it is important to put this character trait as a high priority in your hiring criteria. To determine whether someone has what it takes, it’s important to understand what motivates them, whether they are capable of making decisions without reverting to their boss and whether they have a deadline orientation. In a 2020 study of remote workers, those who were successful were more likely to “hit deadlines no matter what, even if that means pulling all-nighters” whereas those less successful were more likely to say, “I should ask my boss for more time to finish a project.”
In order to screen for the ability to successfully work unsupervised, consider behavioural interview questions, asking scenario-based questions or psychometric testing to help identify the right fit for your business.
2.Give them the tools to do a great job
On a job site or in an office you rarely hear people complain that they aren’t being paid enough. Instead, one of the most common complaints is not having or using the right tools for the job. Being expected to send high resolution photos from a worksite via an iPhone 4 with limited memory or working from the broom closet of the house on a 2004 home PC with outdated software isn’t productive for anyone.
In every employee engagement and satisfaction survey one of the key questions, “Do you have the right tools to adequately perform in my role?” is one that can cause the results to freefall. IT issues are one of the biggest frustrations, especially when it makes it hard to meet deadlines or achieve your best work – which is just one aspect.
Giving your team the tools, they need to do their job is about more than making sure they have the right tradie tools, a working phone and laptop. It’s ensuring they have every relevant resource their job role requires and making sure these resources are in good, working order and within easy reach.
Does your team have adequate access to training? Are there dependencies from others that aren’t being delivered? Are company policies restrictive? Is their workspace inspiring? Is their workplace safe both physically and psychologically?
Regardless of the cause, not having the right tools for the job leads to disengagement and low morale. As a leader sit down and make a checklist of all the tools your team needs to get the job done well and seek ways to make that happen. In return you’ll see higher engagement and morale.
3.Showing you truly care increases motivation
It is very easy for leaders to slip into a task orientation over a people orientation when the tyranny of distance prevails. When working in close proximity it is natural to ask how someone is, make small talk, have watercooler conversations and share thoughts and feedback about strategic decisions, what’s happening in other parts of the business and even sharing feedback on the fly.
When we aren’t working in close proximity it can be far too easy to email or text a list of tasks each morning and get on with your day. While this may seem productive, over time it will erode some of the key factors that lead to high performance such as feeling connected to the organisation and your leader, feeling valued and appreciated, and seeing meaning or greater impact behind your work.
To ensure you have a people orientation, make time for your team. Pop in and visit them on site, organise to meet them for lunch once a week if on the road, set up virtual team huddles, lunches or moments to connect. This isn’t about checking in or checking up but creating a connection and making their work meaningful.
4. Inspire your team to see how their work makes a difference
When we can see a direct connection between the work we do and the impact it is having on others, the community or a broader cause, it feeds our levels of intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation comes from within and is defined as work for its own sake rather than to receive an external reward or avoid some type of punishment. Intrinsic motivation has been linked to higher energy levels, persistence, enthusiasm, engagement and well-being. It also drives creativity because people are most creative when they are motivated by the work itself rather than an external reward or to avoid punishment.
According to motivation expert Daniel Pink, intrinsic motivation is based on three factors:
Autonomy - the need to direct your life and work. To be fully motivated, you must be able to control what you do, when you do it and who you do it with. Autonomy motivates us to think creatively without conforming to strict workplace rules. Should workplaces rethink traditional ideas of control such as regular office hours, dress codes, numerical targets etc. they can increase staff autonomy, build trust and improve creativity.
Mastery - the desire to improve. If one is motivated by mastery, they'll see their potential as unlimited and will constantly seek to improve their skills. This type of person is not motivated by reward but simply improving.
Purpose - invested in the 'bigger picture'. Those who believe they're working towards something bigger and more important than themselves are often hard-working and engaged. Encouraging these people to find purpose in their work by connecting personal goals to targets will help motivate them.
Building an intrinsically motivated team could mean giving your employees the opportunity to spend some time on passion projects that still benefit the business, relinquishing some managerial control, setting tasks that aren't too hard or too easy, but 'just right' to encourage mastery development.
Be sure to share the broad company vision and continually help the team connect the work they are doing to the overall purpose of the organisation. Sharing customer stories where appropriate, can also serve to truly see the impact of day-to-day work in a meaningful way.
5. Reward and recognise a job well done.
When working together on site or in an office, reward and recognition can be an everyday part of working life. It is common to thank someone for a job well done, to show others the great work or achievements of a team member, to participate in formal “above and beyond awards” and to go for drinks/lunch to celebrate successes. However, when working from different locations it is easy to forget to make these moments count.
Without receiving positive feedback, reward or recognition, work can feel unimportant, unappreciated and that efforts are in vain – a sure way to make employees question why they do what they do and send them into a spiral of demotivation. According to HBR, a 10-year study of over 200,000 people found 79 per cent of employees who have quit their jobs felt they weren't appreciated.
Rewarded behaviour gets repeated so think about creative ways that you can formally and informally reward and recognise your team members in a sincere and genuine way.
The reward and recognition process can also have a ripple effect out to the team when the factors that contributed to the successful outcome are shared. Having the high-performing team member share their success and how it was achieved helps others to learn and benchmarks expectations in a positive, affirming way.
Hire talent who already have autonomy as a key strength as they are likely to be a better fit.
Make sure the team has the right tools to do a great job to keep employee satisfaction high.
Genuinely care about your team as people and they will be more motivated to care about you and the business too.
Motivate your team with the right levels of autonomy and opportunities for mastery.
Be sure your team knows that their work matters.
Reward and recognise a job well done.
By following these steps, great leaders will build high-performing, self-motivated teams that will go on to achieve great things no matter whether they are on site, on the road or working from home. The question of what your employees are doing when you are not watching won’t even be a consideration.
If you need any assistance with hiring high-performing autonomous team members, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and receive advice from the experts in labour-hire, permanent and contract staff.