Motivating Back Office Employees

Dear, Anita,

I manage a back-office department in a large company. My team doesn’t interact with the clients nor upper management very often. The work can be repetitive and sometimes boring. How can I keep morale up on my team?

Dear, Back on Track,

Office workersEvery company has internal operations departments performing business-critical functions that may not be, well, very sexy. The sales team or research & development may get all the glory, and these hard-working back office employees may feel out of the loop or under-appreciated.

WeSpire’s annual employee engagement survey reports that engaged employees have managers that care about them, are recognized frequently, and feel they are contributing to their teams in a meaningful way.

Use some of your regular staff meetings to keep employees posted on what other departments are up to. You may wish to invite upper management to give brief corporate updates quarterly. The goodwill from an annual visit and interest in your team from the CEO would be remembered for months.

Occasional team-building events away from the office can break up a monotonous routine. Be sure to celebrate birthdays and note work anniversaries (if your team is large, observe all the birthdays in the month with one cake). A quarterly potluck lunch is a great way to enhance camaraderie. You could even come up with silly contests for your corner of the world (for instance, the first one to reach a particular weekly milestone gets a $5 Starbucks gift card, or every time someone encounters a last name starting with Z, they ring a bell).

Not all motivation is touchy-feely. Money talks… (and I’ll leave the last half of this common colloquialism unsaid). Make sure your employees are paid adequately, and offer real bonuses (not just coffee shop gift cards) for measurable performance results. Don’t wait until the annual review to give feedback; offer verbal pats on the back frequently. Hold regular one-on-one meetings with each team member, and you’ll be able to gauge when one of your employees may be spiraling into discouragement.

Janitor with broom on white background, portraitThe real key to create lasting job satisfaction is to get employees to buy in to your company’s mission. Explain the “why” along with the “how” for departmental duties. Day-to-day tasks feel less onerous when there is an understanding of how they affect the company as a whole.

President Kennedy was touring NASA in the 1960s, and he encountered a janitor with a broom. When asked by the POTUS what he was doing, the custodian replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” The takeaway: No matter how small the role, everyone contributes to the success of an organization.

Managers: What are some of your best employee engagement strategies?
Employees: What could your manager do to keep your morale high?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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