How Low Motivation Is Causing Problems For Your Business

Posted on

One of the saddest things about working in organizations is often the lack of time and attention that is paid to motivation of the staff by senior and middle managers. It is always one of the non-urgent priorities that can be deferred till later. The net result of this is that motivation also becomes not only non-urgent but non-important too.

One of the great laws of the universe is that the visible things depend for their existence on the invisible things. Put another way, what is derives from what we can not see. The ancient Egyptians put this very succinctly: "All the world which lies below has been set in order and filled in contents by the things which are placed above; for the things below have not the power to set in order the world above." St Paul described it another way: "for the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal".

What has this got to do with motivation? Everything! We do not ‘;see’; motivation, although we can experience its effects. But because we do not see it – like we see the money in the bank in the bank statement, or the widgets on the production line (or more generally the ‘;targets achieved’;) – we discount in some way its importance and consequences.

There are ten major effects of not paying attention to the invisible energy of motivation in your organization. Check your organization against these ten points.

One, lack of motivation leads to an increase in staff turnover. Various statistics are wheeled out about this, and it will clearly vary year on year, and within sectors. On average something like 18% of staff turnover in the first year, although some figures put this at 60% in the first six months. But just say one in five is likely to leave within the first year that is an enforced expense. For the average operative the cost is over £ 8K in the UK, for managers more like £ 12K, and for senior managers the cost is astronomical. What is it costing you?

Two, productivity of course goes down. According to the Pareto Principle the difference between your most effective and motivated staff and your least (in a reasonably sized organization) is sixteen times! Think about that – your motivated staff are likely to be sixteen times more productive !! Staggering.

Three, low motivation measures absence rates go up, which further depresses productivity. But also, it creates further low morale, feeding low energy and low self-esteem. Low self-esteem feeds overall low or under-performance.

Four, recruitment costs go up. This is a necessary consequence of point One of course. Bear in mind the advertising costs, recruitment agency fees, and the sheer time involved in the selection and interviewing process. Few people really like doing this – it’;s a major distraction from the core business of serving the customers.

Five, while we are busy deploying staff to fill in for those leaving hell, and setting up interviewing panels for those about to enter it, we find that fire fighting increases. Long term fire fighting leads invariably to health issues because of the stress involved. In other words, health of existing staff goes down; this in turn re-enforces points Two and Three.

Six, unsurprisingly with all this going on, we start losing customers because the service is poor. This is the beginning of the death of the organization.

Seven, our reputation as an organization plummets. The customers who left at point Six talk about us. Negative PR sets in. It is estimated that the average dissatisfied customer inflames at least 13 other people. I remember when I received a particularly bad service from an American laptop company I went on a six month rampage and informed about about 1300 people at just about every speaking gig I spoke at. And interestingly, this same company has recently received a similar roasting on the Institute of Directors LinkedIn Group discussion. How bad news travels!

Eight, so with all this negativity going on as a result of poor motivation, some one at the top decides the staff who remain need training. Training costs go seriously UP. This sounds good? It may be, but unfortunately most training – which is not compliance, health and safety or technical – is misdirected. We train people on skills, because that is easy; we need to focus on training for motivation. We need a language and measurement for motivation, and most senior managers miss this point. Thus the training falls short of addressing the real issues within the organization.

Nine, our outsourcing costs are going to go up too. Training has not worked, so call in the consultants. This is consultants’; paradise. And it is usually massively disempowering for the senior management as well as the organization as a whole. We have read much recently about the whole sale relationship of Government departments – to mention one sector – on consultants which has proved not value for money. The truth is: most consultants know very little about motivation, but quite a bit about processes. There’;s the disconnect: these processes, you know, require motivated people.

Ten, these Nine consequences of low motivation lead to the final Tenth: failure. And failure means Net Asset Value down, means blame, despair up, and finally self-belief down. And when self-belief is down, self-confidence is done, and the game is over.

Where are you with the motivation of your staff? How do you get a strategic plan to address low motivation? How do you stack up against these ten points? You know, now is the time to address them. Motivation may be invisible but we can not live without it. As it says in the I-Ching: "They put themselves in accord with the Tao and its power and in conformity with this laid down the order of what is right. By thinking through the order of the outer world to the end, and by exploring the law of their nature to the deepest core, they arrived at an understanding of fate. "