A common challenge leaders and managers face in today's work place is the question of; "How do I keep my team motivated?" Over the past seventy years motivation has been the topic of much research. From Maslow's needs-hierarchy to Skinner's reinforcement theory, the question has remained the same. "How do we as leaders create a feeling of interest, a reason for doing something or behaving in a certain way?"
Many factors have been taken into consideration when looking at motivation theory. However, the general conclusion has been, motivating factors vary from one person to the other. Something that highly motivates one individual may be of no concern to another individual. None-the-less, I have chosen to discuss one motivating factor that seems to be fairly uniform in the work place. This factor is feedback.
In most facets of life people seek to feel valued, and it should come as no surprise that the work place is not an exception to this phenomenon. Thus, leaders must know how to properly bestow feelings of value in their employees through the use of feedback. In order for feedback to be effective the message must be relevant, specific, timely, valuable, and accurate. To provide a basic example, have you ever tried to train a puppy? If so then these five aspects of effective feedback should not seem foreign to you. When the dog performs the desired behavior, reward or feedback must be specific, relevant, accurate, and timely to insure that Fido is still aware of why he is being rewarded. We also want the reward or feedback to be valuable, meaning the feedback is something that Fido finds gratifying. Due to our effective use of feedback, the next time we tell Fido to sit, he is going to be much more motivated to repeat the action. Let's not get confused; human beings are much more complex creatures than animals. However, very similar principles apply when it comes to using effective feedback with people.
Let's now look at an example in the work place. Jane Smith is a valuable asset to your team. She is always on time, exteriorly creative, gives exceptional customer service, and has great employee relation skills. You, as Jane's manager, recognize Jane's exceptional work and determine she should receive a "pat on the back". How do you insure that this "pat on the back" is indeed effective feedback? First identify exactly which area of Jane's exceptional work you are going to commend. A statement such as, "Jane, you are doing a great job" is not nearly as motivating as "Jane, you really set the bar with your customer service. You received six compliments from customers this week!" Next, provide the feedback soon after Jane has acted in a commendable manner. Finally, provide the feedback in a genuine style that you have determined to be valuable specifically to Jane. Jane has now received relevant, specific, timely, valuable, and accurate feedback. She can now return to work feeling appreciated, motivated, and prepared to continue working at a commendable level.
In short, feedback can be a very powerful motivator as long as it is administered effectively. Although each industry is going to be different it is still beneficial for employees to know their work is noticed and appreciated. When feedback is used motivation should increase thus, so will productivity.