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,

Every 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.

The 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.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

RELATED POSTS:
Developing Employees with a Business Owner Mentality
Public Recognition
Creating a Recognition Culture

Keeping Employees Happy

Dear, Anita,

I have a hunch that one of my direct reports may be looking for another job. I’d really hate to lose her, as she is so dependable and, after being with us for four years, really knows the ins and outs of the business. We did give her a 3% raise about 5 months ago, so it’s too early to give her another pay bump. What else can our company do to keep her happy here?

Dear, Sweating Bullets,

There are numerous studies on the reasons that people leave their jobs. I won’t make you feel terrible by quoting “The Savage Truth” blog: “It’s not the company they are leaving. It’s you.” Whoopsie.

Most managers assume it’s about the money. PricewaterhouseCoopers found that compensation was actually number 3 on the list, with limited career/promotion opportunities and lack of respect/support from supervisors as number 1 and 2, respectively.  A survey by Staffing Industry Analysts found the top three reasons employees left a staffing job were bad management, bad environment, and a lack of opportunity. Entrepreneur cites advancement, work/life balance, and money as the top 3 reasons people leave jobs.

So what can you do to manage your team in a positive environment where workers feel valued and have room for professional growth?

It may be helpful to look at businesses people are dying to work for — such as Google, named a “Best Place To Work” by Fortune and Glassdoor’s 2015 Employees’ Choice Awards. Not every company can offer on-site haircuts and dry-cleaning, subsidized massages, and rec rooms equipped with foosball and video games, but there are feasible things you can do. When Google changed its maternity leave from a 12-week plan to 5 months taken at the new mom’s discretion, the attrition rate for new mothers reduced by 50%. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the cost to replace and hire new staff is estimated to be 60 percent of an employee’s annual salary. That may be reason enough to keep your current employees satisfied.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) suggests employee incentive programs such as flex time, workplace wellness programs, project completion perks, and corporate memberships.

You didn’t mention your employee’s age, but Generation X may want different perks and purpose than their predecessors. According to researchers Charlotte and Laura Shelton, 51% of Gen Xers said they’d quit if another employer offered them the chance to telecommute and 61% of Gen X women would leave their current jobs if they were offered more flexible hours elsewhere. The top 3 things Gen X want in a job: positive relationships with colleagues, interesting work, and opportunities for learning.

You’ll have to probe to determine what the silver bullet is for this particular staffer and see if your company is willing to make changes not just for her, but to increase employee retention in the future.

Readers: If you were considering leaving your job, what could your employer offer that would make a difference?

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

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

RELATED POSTS:
Employee Perks
Holiday Parties, Payouts, and Perks
Apple, Facebook Add Egg Freezing to List of Perks
“Unlimited” Vacation: Benefit or Burden?

Stay or Quit?

Dear, Anita,

I’ve been unhappy at my current job for a while. I am butting heads with my moody supervisor, and the daily grind (not to mention the commute) is getting me down. But I make decent money and have pretty good benefits. How do I decide whether to stick it out or quit?

Dear, On the Fence,
IOn_the_Fence_iStock_000009524325_Smallf, like The Clash, you are asking yourself “Should I stay or should I go?,” take the time to write a list of the positives and negatives. Sometimes the grass looks greener elsewhere because you are stewing on the few aspects of your job that get you down instead of ruminating on all the plusses. Putting it down on paper – or in Excel – may lead to a visual “aha” moment.

An online decision tool like helpMYdecision adds weight to each factor in the choice. Are your salary and benefits extremely important (10) or not very (1)? (Answer this after looking at your monthly bills.) Does working at something meaningful rank higher than money for you? Is a more cooperative relationship with a boss a 7, a shorter commute a 5 or an 8? Does having an office with a window versus a cubicle not matter at all to you? After weighting the determinants, rate your current situation then let the computer give you its “Best Choice.”  Sometimes, when we ask advice, we are really just seeking validation for the choice we’ve subconsciously made. So take notice if you think hooray! when the decision appears, or if you feel disappointed. Then go with your gut.

Manager_Employee_Serious_SpeakIf you’ve decided to stay, see what you can do to repair your relationship with your boss. Relationships are based on trust. Can your boss count on you to do your assigned tasks? It’s even better if you “go the extra mile.” It’s your job to make your supervisor look good to her superiors and/or customers.  Perhaps her bad moods crop up after she’s had an unpleasant interaction with her boss over problems or productivity issues.  She’s only human and may unwittingly take it out on those around her. Try the “kill her with kindness” approach, no matter her mood. Find something – anything – to compliment. It may not happen overnight, but you may be surprised how a little positivity can change a relationship or an entire workplace.

If and when you leave your current job, don’t burn any bridges. Use that 2-week notice timeframe to tie up any loose ends and leave your replacement with an organized desk and files. Telling your supervisor exactly what you think of her management style on your last day won’t really help you or her.

But don’t leave until you’ve found another position. It’s easier to find a job if you have a job (there’s some psychology at play – if you’re currently employed, you’re obviously a desirable hire.)  And it may take you longer than you think to obtain better employment. Keep your pro and con list in mind when searching for a new job to keep from jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Readers: Are you contemplating quitting your job? Why?

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

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

RELATED POSTS:
I Resolve to Get a New Job
World’s Worst Jobs
Rapid Resignation
Be Happy – All Day, Every Day

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.
%d bloggers like this: