Five Misconceptions About Motivating Employees this January

Paul Burrin, Vice President of Sage People.

How motivated and engaged are employees in your organisation this January? 

The holiday festivities have come to a close, the days are short and the weather is unbearably cold. We’ve officially entered a season known for low productivity, sluggishness and a lack of creativity. In fact, this time of year has even been dubbed “Blue January”. 

However, in reality January presents an opportunity to refocus our efforts on motivating employees and fostering an engaging, rewarding work environment. 

HR and people teams and company leadership can counteract the January blues and set the tone for a productive 2019 with the right strategy in place – provided they don’t fall into the habit of common misconceptions about how to best encourage productivity in the workplace. 

Companies that understand what motivates employees are sure to have a productive January and beyond. Here are the most common productivity myths and how to deliver on what employees really care about instead. 

Myth #1: Employees want cool perks like ping pong tables or team outings

All the cool companies may have them, but despite 40 per cent of companies believe office games are important to employees, just five per cent of employees say they value these types of benefits, our research ‘Why your workforce isn’t working’ found. More than half of respondents said they actually found them a distraction. 

Ultimately, employees don’t value gimmicks as much as their employers think. Instead of springing for a new ping pong table, invest time in ensuring employees feel valued and recognized for their hard work. 

Myth #2: Just saying ‘thank you’ is enough to show employees you appreciate their work

Saying ‘thank you’ is a great start, but 66 per cent of employees we polled want to feel more valued and receive recognition for their work. They want to feel that their company values the contribution they’re making to the business. 

Go beyond ‘thank you’ by creating a system for rewarding and recognizing good work. Whether it’s sending out a quarterly email to employees spotlighting great performance or scheduling a monthly review session with management, it’s important to make sure your team feels appreciated and receives feedback regularly. 

Myth #3: Flexible work schedules and remote work distracts employees and harms productivity

Some companies may be hesitant to instate flexible hours or work from home policies, but 81 per cent of employees we spoke to say this kind of flexibility is vital. They want to work in an environment that is best for them, which will inevitably boost productivity. 

Why shouldn’t employees work from 7am and finish earlier if they’re more productive in the mornings? Why should parents have to miss the school run just to be seen to be in the office, when they may be working long evenings too?

Consider giving employees the freedom to create their own hours and work remotely, especially in January when morale tends to dip. 

Myth #4: Wellness is only top of mind for employees in January

It’s likely your employees will return from the holidays with wellness goals—both mental and physical. You should be prepared to support these initiatives – but not just in January. 

39 per cent of employees we polled said they believe HR and People teams could do more to improve wellness at work. Although January is a great time to start, if its not continued throughout the year, then it can seem like an empty gesture from employers. 

Whether it’s offering subsidised gym membership, providing free fruit, ensuring there is mental health support in place, or demonstrating at a wider level that the company values employee’s health and wellbeing through an instilled culture, this is something that’s important to employees year-round. 

Myth #5: Motivating employees is a priority in January when productivity is low 

You’re reading this because you’re presuming that engagement and motivation is low in January – but is that really the case in your organisation? How do you know? 

So many organisations make assumptions to inform HR and people goals based on gut feel. Instead, progressive HR and People teams should be using data and People analytics to build actionable insights. At what point in the year do you experience highest turnover? Have you explored data from pulse surveys to understand what impacts engagement, and when? Accessing actionable insights can make the difference between understanding myths – and reality. 

Ready to become a People Company in 2019? 

If you’re an organisation that understands the importance of real recognition over office games and gimmicks, gives employees the ability to choose when and where they work, offers wellness programs throughout the year and makes decisions on data rather than gut feel, then you’re well on the way to becoming a truly people-focussed organisation. 

If you’re not, maybe this January is the perfect time to start. 

Find out more about what really gets employees productive; download Sage People’s research from 3,500 workers, ‘Why your workforce isn’t working’. 

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