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How to motivate your staff

Setting strategic directions and targets is the first step towards achieving results and seeing change in any particular setting.  But in themselves strategy documents and targets will not guarantee that goals will be met.  Understanding what motivates people and drives performance is crucial to success.  Motivation can be defined as the “willingness to exert effort towards a team or individual goal”.  Motivating staff is an ongoing and critical role of any leader.  But motivating staff is more than providing some form of tangible reward.  It requires a complicated mix of feedback, autonomy and opportunities.

As we move further into 2016, newspaper headlines read of political wrangling over VET reforms and funding changes. There are regular stories criticising the quality of the VET sector and telling of another collapse of a once viable RTO. How do leaders in RTOs confidently provide direction, drive and motivation in times of turmoil and uncertainty?

Essential Ingredients to Success

Many authors discuss the essential ingredients to success in an organisation, but most agree on the following essential elements for cultivating an environment in which staff feel motivated to deliver quality and productivity.  These elements are:

 1. A clear framework in which to operate

Providing clear policies and procedures, specific and measurable targets and a clear allocation of tasks to team members is one aspect of cultivating a positive work environment.

 2. Intrinsic motivation

Another key element is providing opportunities for people to be effective at something that is personally meaningful for them.  People will feel more motivated and engaged in a task for which they feel a sense ownership and that uses their skills and knowledge.  A deeper sense of achievement and satisfaction is often reported when people are part of a team effort to achieve goals.

3. Capacity Building

People will be more willing to perform and strive to achieve goals and targets when they have the right mix of experience and qualifications and have opportunities to further improve their knowledge and skills.  A focus on building capacity across the whole team and not just on an individual will produce more effective results and be more likely to result in a positive team environment.

4. Support and opportunity

People are more likely to perform well when they have the tools and resources required to do their job; efficient work systems and procedures; appropriate timeframes and support from team members and leaders.

5. Effective leadership

Staff are more likely to be motivated and engaged when they experience leadership that is focused on building the esteem of the team; models high standards; communicates, interacts and influences others.

Theories of Motivation

Looking at some of the theories about motivation can also give some insight into the skills and techniques required to motivate staff.

Vroom’s Expectancy Theory

This theory says that motivation depends on 3 key factors:

  • the belief that effort will lead to acceptable performance;
  • that performance will be rewarded and
  • that the value of the reward is highly positive.

So in other words, higher levels of motivation will result when staff believe they are capable of performing the task to an acceptable level and that doing so will result in some form of positive reward.

What can leaders do to motivate staff?

Based on this theory a leader can influence the motivation levels of staff by doing the following:

  • Select the right people, with the right skills for a particular task
  • Provide training and clarify expectations
  • Provide time and resources
  • Provide coaching for staff who lack confidence
  • Remove barriers to success, intervene to assist when needed
  • Provide positive and regular feedback
  • Consider ways to positively recognise and reward the contributions of your staff.

Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory

Another interesting theory to consider proposes that some job factors result in satisfaction and that others prevent dissatisfaction.

All work environments must include some essential factors which dont necessarily lead to satisfaction but if they were absent in the workplace would lead to dissatisfaction. These essential factors include:

  • appropriate pay;
  • fair and clear work policies;
  • fringe benefits;
  • safe and clean working conditions;
  • employee relationships and
  • job security.

Interestingly these are the factors that are often associated with reward programs however according to this theory, they do not lead to satisfied and motivated employees.

Motivational factors include:

  • recognition and praise;
  • sense of achievement;
  • growth and advancement opportunities;
  • responsibility and meaningfulness of the work.

When these factors are present they result in intrinsic reward which results in motivated staff.

Based on this theory a leader must ensure that working conditions, pay and role clarity are provided but in addition must make sure that the work is stimulating and rewarding.  This theory emphasises that job enrichment is important in motivating employees toward achievement of individual and team goals.

Summing up

So what does all this mean for an RTO leader?

  1. Understanding what motivates people and drives performance is crucial to the success of your RTO.
  2. Leaders must provide a clear framework for operation and enable staff to engage in meaningful work
  3. Leaders must invest in staff to build capacity and provide the type of leadership that supports and encourages achievement.
  4. RTOs will continue to be impacted by changes in the sector. Building a sense of team within the RTO, equipping all staff through open communication, training and information sharing and celebrating achievement will assist in building capacity and resilience.

Please feel free to leave some comments below and tell us about your experience of building and motivating your team.

Thanks for being part of our community,


Karen Sell Polaroid2



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