Back to the grind: Understanding what motivates high-performers

Summer and the long days of sunlight are winding to a close. Your employees are finishing up the last of their summer vacations of beach days, mountain hikes, over-shopping and Netflix binging. On that first Monday morning after vacation, who among your employees is waking up at the first sound of the alarm (or even before), highly motivated and excited to dive back in? And who is hitting the snooze button with a groan and throwing covers over their heads? You probably have an idea who falls into which camp, and it’s your highly engaged top performers that don’t need the snooze button. But do you know why? And more importantly, do you know why the others are running through every conceivable reason to take a sick day, weighing the believability of each option, and then reluctantly crawling out of bed?


Understanding what motivates your employees can help you close the gap between your highly engaged, top performers and your average or underperforming workers. (And that can be a lot of employees – according to the latest Gallup survey, 66 percent of workers aren’t engaged.)


Determining individual motivation isn’t obvious because it is an internal,  emotional process that combines the intrinsic (from within the individual) and the extrinsic (from without). If your organization is relying mainly on extrinsic motivators like salary and bonuses, you are leaving many potentially excellent employees behind –  and ensuring that your top employees will leave the first time someone offers a larger salary. If Elon Musk was motivated only by money, he’d be living on an island somewhere, sipping margaritas and watching the sunset after selling PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002. Instead, he’s gone on to found Tesla Motors and invest in Solar City and SpaceX. We obviously all can’t be Elon, but sufficiently motivated we can all achieve great things.


What motivates us?

Getting paid well will get employees in the door, but over time it will not drive them to excel. The 2014 TINYpulse Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture report found that for 20 percent of employees, camaraderie among peers was the number one reason for high performance. The other top motivators were:

  • Intrinsic desire to do a good job: 17%
  • Feeling encouraged and recognized: 13%
  • Having a real impact: 10%
  • Growing professionally: 8%
  • Meeting client/customer needs: 8%
  • Money and benefits: 7%
  • Positive supervisor/senior management: 4%
  • Believe in company/product: 4%


Stop making assumptions

Do you want to know what motivates your employees? Ask them. If you haven’t talked to them about what gets them excited about their work, what they care about, and what frustrates them or blocks their ability to excel, then you are left making assumptions.


And we all know what happens when you assume.








IYCMI: Every Day is Employee Appreciation Day

In case you missed it (ICYMI), today is employee appreciation day! If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking: “Wow, there’s a holiday for everything nowadays!” and “Shouldn’t every day be employee appreciation day?”


Celebrating Employee Appreciation is very important – not just for employees but also for leaders to realize that their employees are a company’s greatest assets. It is a day we should express gratitude for each other and appreciate each other’s unique perspectives and abilities.


Expressing thankfulness and gratitude for employees’ hard work is not a new or novel idea. Neither is offering support, trust and respect when times get tough at work. However, as employee engagement rates plummet and workplace stress soars, business and HR leaders are desperately searching for ways to reignite passion and drive within their workforces.


If I were to guess, this might be one of the reasons we’ve seen such a big emphasis put on Employee Appreciation Day over the past few years.


A recent article published by Harvard Business Review sheds light on the cold-hard-facts about workplace stress and low engagement rates:


  • 550 million workdays are lost each year due to workplace stress
  • Workplace stress leads to an increase in almost 40% voluntary turnover
  • Disengaged workers have 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents and 60% more errors or defects
  • Low engagement rates in organizations results in 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth and 65% lower share price over time


With stats like that, it’s hard to know where to start. The article suggests, “Wellbeing comes from one place, and one place only – a positive culture.” When one of your client needs to speak with you, you would stop what you are doing and listen right? Why wouldn’t you do that for one of your employees? Seems straight forward enough – treat your employees well and they’ll pay it forward.


Treating your employees as well as you do your clients is just one simple way to show appreciation, increase morale and staff retention. HBR research suggests a few proven ways to establish a happier, more positive company culture. Stop playing the blame game, inspire others instead of tearing them down, consistently emphasize the meaningfulness of the work, and always offer up support, respect and kindness.


Hopefully you work at a company where appreciating a job well done is part of the corporate culture, and you are valued year round. Here are a few of my favorite ways to show respect and goodwill to make your employees feel appreciated and more valued not just today but every day:


  • Be attentive and accessible
  • Celebrate the “wins” and acknowledge your staff’s importance
  • Promote professional development
  • Create a culture of cncouragement
  • Be flexible
  • Listen


For more tips, check out Laurie Ruettiman’s blog for some quick last minute tips for Employee Appreciation Day. If you want to go the extra mile, share what you’re doing for Employee Appreciation Day using the hashtag #EmployeeAppreciationDay.


And, to the Meridian team: You’re all fabulous and I’m so proud to work alongside such a great team every day.

#ICYMI: 2016 is The Year of Enablement

In case you missed it, New York Fashion Week wrapped up this week. For all you non-fashionistas, NYFW is everything in the fashion world. The world’s leading fashion houses (and super models) take the stage, debuting their new line of clothes, accessories and styles. Everyone ohhs and ahhs. Trends are born. Art is inspired. Bloggers go nuts. Bank accounts are drained. You get the gist.


What on Earth does NYFW have to do with learning, technology or the workforce?


Everyone loves a hot, new trend. And the fashion industry, like technology, is constantly evolving and growing. Some trends are fleeting, while others are here to stay.


Each year researches and analysts gather information and data to predict the trends and technologies that will have a significant impact the workforce.


What are some of the hottest trends hitting the HR technology scene?

New Gallup research shows employee engagement rates haven’t really changed, remaining stagnant at 32% in 2015 (it was 31.5% in 2014), and organizations are still scrambling trying to figure out what to do to turn it around. Bersin sees a maturing market for well-being, wellness, and productivity systems and in the U.S. unemployment rate is at the lowest it’s been since 2008 (5%), but the average salary increase isn’t budging.


As productivity plateaus, leadership development, retention, and engagement all rank top concerns among HR and business leaders.


That’s why Christa Manning, Principal Analyst at Eudemonia, has dubbed 2016 The Year of Enablement. Learning and development (L&D) departments are directly impacted by these workforce trends, and are faced with the reality that it’s time to rethink their approach to career development and skills training.


This week, Manning presented a webinar featuring the top 5 trends that learning and development teams should get on board with to help enable and empower their teams. They are:

  1. Address the employee experience – Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all training programs. Learning leaders need to think about the holistic learning experience. In a world where users can virtually Google anything to gain skills an information, L&D departments need to step up their game and think about different, more engaging ways to enhance the user experience.
  2. Embrace the extended enterprise – Nearly one in three (31%) of the global working population today classify themselves as free agents. That means organizations need to reevaluate how they’re delivering training to their extended enterprise (partners, customers, resellers, franchises) who are representing their brand. Training and skills development shouldn’t be limited to internal folks. L&D departments should think about how and where they can extend their learning programs to their external audience.
  3. Facilitate the who, not just the what – Social learning communities are generating more engagement, adoption and knowledge absorption, which makes sense; people learn from each other. Organizations need to ensure their learning technology offers social features that allow users to contribute, collaborate and share knowledge.
  4. Curate the contributors – It’s no secret that there is an abundance of content out there for people to consume, but when it comes to learning, it’s quality over quantity. Filling a learning management system (LMS) with thousands of pieces of content isn’t the way to deliver learning. L&D departments need to identify what they need, curate content and partner specific content providers who can deliver that information. (Shameless plug: OpenSesame is a fantastic content provider if you’re in the market for one!)
  5. The comeback of customization – Learning departments need to think about how they brand their corporate training software. When the user logs in does it look and feel like the company’s brand? Or does it look totally disjointed? To get users active and engaged, the learning platform should represent the company’s values, strategy and goals.


Looking for more information on the top trends? Download Powering Productivity and Potential: Learning Trends 2016 for more research and case studies on how learning leaders are tackling major workforce challenges this year!