You Think Employee Motivation is the Problem, But You Might Be Wrong

Elliot Chan, Digital Marketing Manager4 min read

Your business missed targets again. That sucks! After all, there are few things more disheartening than strategizing, putting in time and effort, and acquiring the best tools only to see numbers that don’t match your expectations.

So, where did everything go wrong? Who is to blame? And how should you proceed?

As a business leader, it’s tempting to point the finger at employee motivation. After all, unmotivated workers cost the American economy $300 billion in lost productivity annually. And according to Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report , only 21% of employees are regularly engaged at work.

Many believe a disengaged workforce is the cause of the problem (hence the rise in productivity paranoia —especially amongst leaders of distributed teams). Without visibility into the workday, it’s only natural for you to jump to such a conclusion.

But the truth is that you don’t know what’s causing those missed targets.

Motivation may be the problem—but it also might be something completely different. Maybe it’s the organization, the workflow, or the communication tools. No matter what, you’re grasping at straws if you don’t have tangible evidence.

As a leader, you have data to validate whether your company is hitting revenue targets or marketing goals. But you might lack data and insight into your employees’ workday. And without that crucial data, you cannot confirm that motivation is the problem. Without data, you and your team will struggle to stamp down what is or isn’t a productive work day. Without data, you’ll have to continue guessing.

Data offers a shared understanding and eliminates assumptions. With data, you and your team can assess the facts together and have constructive conversations about what needs fixing.

You wouldn’t make assumptions about your revenue or budget—so why do that with your employees’ time and effort?

Establish a shared understanding of work

We all have unique perceptions of time, so it’s only natural we experience work differently. On average, a worker will spend 81,396 hours at their job in their lifetime. The only thing they’ll spend more time doing is sleeping.

Seeing work through different lenses than those of our colleagues leads to us developing assumptions of what works best for us. When the work is engaging, time passes quickly—but when work is tedious, time drags. With everyone having their own point of view about the workday, it’s hard to have a productive conversation.

But if employee motivation is not the issue, then tearing apart your whole company by rebuilding procedures, creating new guidelines, and terminating workers will not resolve your initial problem either. Before making big changes, ensure you and your team are not leaning too heavily on personal biases.

A nutritionist needs to measure calories to properly portion meals. A fitness coach tracks your heart rate to determine the optimal workout intensity. And a business leader should use digital work analytics to understand work patterns over time to optimize collaboration.

Once you can see what a workday looks like—what tools are used, when conversations are happening, and whether your team is working more efficiently early or later in the day—you can gauge where time is lost, what productive work looks like, and when distractions occur .

That’s where Produce8 comes into play. By implementing our digital work pattern timeline and metrics, you can see digital tendencies across your entire team. And in doing so, you can create an ideal workspace, where collaboration and efficiency both have room to thrive.

You might not be wrong, but there’s more to know

We know: It’s frustrating to not hit your targets, miss project deadlines, and lose revenue. You want a quick fix, and calling out your workers’ motivation is easier than digging into the nitty-gritty of how work is getting done. But without the facts, you’re only left with blunt opinions.

A workday, much like motivation, is unique to each employee. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, you’ll need to work with your team to identify gaps in productivity and figure out how to collaborate more effectively.

In the end, maybe you’ll be right—maybe motivation was the problem. Regardless, you still need to have better conversations with your team. And you need to develop a shared understanding and make fewer assumptions!

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