If you are anything like me, you have read every book possible on how to motivate employees to be high performers. It constantly changes according to what you read and there is no rule of thumb that works for all employees. Each time you read a book or blog that espouses to have the secret sauce, you find that there are some underlying issues that the company they are talking about may have.
3 Myths every entrepreneur needs to know about employee motivators

Great new applications like JobVibe are good to gauge how your employees are doing - only if employees are truly putting in data that is true to them. The other issue is that even with applications like this, what someone is feeling in the moment they are entering data may not be what they are feeling 10 minutes later. People's moods and opinions change all the time, and particularly with mental health issues on the rise, it has become increasingly hard to gauge.

McKinsey has completed a number of studies on employee motivation. They found that participants viewed three non-financial motivators; praise from immediate managers, leadership attention in the form of one-to-one conversations and the opportunity to lead projects as being greater motivators than remuneration.

This is interesting because if you have ever had an employee sit in front of you and ask for a payrise, and not get one, you will quickly find that they are on job boards looking for a new role. Their expectation of what they should be paid is often compared to others inside and out of the work place, and their own sense of what they believe they are worth.

Once you say no for whatever reason; the company is not profitable, the persons work is not at a level higher than their current salary, they do the bare minimum in their job, or that is the industry standard and the company has levels in which people need to attain (like in a Local Council or Government job).

Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost businesses $300 billion in profit each year - so it is in every company's best interest to find out how they can motivate each of their employees to be the best at what they do.

At Marketing Eye, we tried a few things:

  • No management; a flat organisational structure where employees choose their own colleagues and job-share, skill-share
  • Direct correlation between salary and performance, contribution to the team environment and revenue
  • Endless holidays after the first year (only if your clients are not impacted)
  • Celebrations for every persons birthday including company bought gifts (don't be surprised if a Gucci bag lands on your shoulders), Fridays etc
  • Team meditation during work hours even though most employees are clock work employees (meaning they don't work a minute overtime and more often than not turn up late)
  • Freedom to express themselves through their work
  • The ability to fire clients and colleagues who are not pulling their weight, without interference from ownership or accounts
  • An endless encouragement to follow your dreams, no matter what

Trust me, many of these things are work-in-progress and it works for some and not others. Even though everyone experiences all of these things, some are born to expect more. The jobs that they have are very good, as we only take on clients that are a good fit and nice people. There work is fulfilling and they learn more working at Marketing Eye than any other job they ever have had and every employees says this over and over again. Interns also share this experience of learning more at Marketing Eye than what they do at University or in other internships.

Every person is born different. You may find some people 'expect' things and feel entitled. I had an employee only last week say that they 'hate rich people', and they said it with such force that it shocked me. Why would you 'hate' someone just because they have money? Our clients predominantly are successful, rich people and depending on your definition, I could name at least five staff members who are without doubt rich.

This persons motivators will be very different to those of the person sitting next to them. Buying a long-term employee an expensive gift would no doubt 'piss that person off', but to another person in the office it might motivate them to work hard, and stay with the company for a long time.

3 Myths according to psychology experts on employee motivation include:

  • Money is the best motivator: Money only motivates people who want to be rich. For instance, we have a sales manager, and there is no doubt in the world that commissions is his biggest motivator. He runs his own show, but brings in the team to support him. But according to psychologists, when it come sto issues related to performance, financial incentives don't help.
  • Happy employees are the most productive: I've seen this first hand. Everyone laughing everyday, having lunch together and socialising out of work. The company giving them the platform to enjoy each other's company, and develop their skills. Productivity halved! In fact, billable hours were sitting around 30% and clients were not getting all of their work done. They were so busy being happy and having a good time, and with a flat organisational structure, they didn't call anyone into account. When told about their lack of billable hours, they just became defensive. Clearly revenue, profitability and performance was affected. While amenities are great benefits, it is proven that it has no correlation between job satisfaction and productivity. 
  • Praise motivates employees to be better performers: Once again, you can give people praise, but if that is not what they are seeking, then they won't necessarily perform better. Some employees feel that once they have had praise, they don't need to work for it again. Or, they are praised, so where is their payrise, or corner office? I for one never needed praise when I worked for other people. All I needed was to know within myself that I was doing a good job and that each time I did something, it was better than the time before.

Everyone is different. It is impossible to use one platform to make everyone happy all of the time. High performers are quite often born that way and have a dream that they want to achieve. Happy employees often need to be happy with the person they see in the mirror, happy with their out of work life and feel that the work they do in their job has meaning.

We read all of these books and to be honest, we could burn all of them. These rules or ways in which to motivate staff never take into account mental illness, dreams, capabilities, life goals, home life, health and a number of other things - which they need to. Different psychological profiles require different outcomes - simple.

Mellissah Smith is a serial entrepreneur and business leader with more than 20 years' experience in marketing.
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Mellissah Smith

Mellissah Smith is a marketing expert, author, writer, public speaker and technology innovator. Having worked with more than 300 companies across technology, medical device, professional services, manufacturing, logistics, finance and health industries, Mellissah has a well-established reputation as an experienced marketing professional with more than 20 years experience. As the founder and managing director of Marketing Eye, she has taken the company from startup to a multi-million dollar enterprise with offices in Australia and the US. Mellissah is also the Editor in Chief of Marketing Eye Magazine, a quarterly magazine that cover marketing, entrepreneurship, travel, health and wellbeing. #mellissah #marketingeye

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