Motivating Staff: ‘Just Ask Your People What They Want’

Posted March 17, 2023 at 12:44 pm

Sounds simple enough, right? But how many laundry operators take the time to probe beyond superficial attitudes to learn what staff in today’s diverse workplaces expect from their employers? Those that do are likely to fare better in today’s ultra-tight labor markets, according to an HR expert who’ll headline TRSA’s Production Summit in May.

Melissa Furman, MS, DBA, is a professor and assistant dean at Hull College of Business at Augusta University in Augusta, GA. She’ll tackle the issue of how to motivate employees during her keynote address at the summit on May 10 in Kansas City, MO. After more than a decade of researching the psychology of employee motivation, Furman launched “Career Potential LLC,” a consulting firm focused on training, coaching and consulting with business leaders on HR issues.

Part of the problem that many companies have with recruitment/retention is that the attitudes of many in management are out of sync with today’s employees, says Furman. “Most workplace environments were designed by white American men,” she says. “That’s just the statistical fact. It’s not right or wrong. It’s just that’s what it was, and now, the workforce has so much more diversity in terms of gender and cultural backgrounds.” Consequently, Furman says that many employers face challenges in motivating staff. That, in turn, encourages dissatisfied employees to look elsewhere for what’s missing. Some give in to the temptation to switch jobs for a quarter-an-hour pay hike.

Managers can address the problem by expanding outreach efforts to get an improved understanding of employee needs. Thurman’s keynote address, titled “Managing and Leading the Future Workforce,” will focus on improving recruitment/retention efforts. To achieve that goal, Thurman says employers need to dig deeper into what motivates employees in key areas, including:

Job Mobility/Career Development: To enhance staff longevity, ask employees about their wants and needs, Thurman says. Some may tell you they’re OK with feeding an ironer. If you probe for the “why” behind that answer, you may find that the employee is taking care of aging parents or has several young children at home. He or she may not want the added responsibility, hours and stress of a management post. You might address these concerns by offering additional time off or flex time to help accommodate their needs. Demonstrating that you care and are willing to make adjustments to address an individual’s personal situation also can help build loyalty because you’ve gone the extra mile to understand their needs.

Teamwork: Every company values teamwork, but the term means different things to different people, Thurman says. For men, teamwork is often associated with sporting contests and winning. For women, the idea is more frequently associated with collaborating with colleagues. If you haven’t taken time to explore these and other concepts with staff, your efforts to build strong teams may fall short.

Quality of Work Life: Every operator wants to think that they offer a fun place to work, right? Many seek to prove it by throwing parties or picnics, typically featuring pizza or other popular foods. Thurman points out that these “mandatory fun” sessions may fall flat if employers don’t account for individual tastes and customs of staff. For example, younger employees such as millennials (born 1981-’96) may want healthier or lower-calorie options than those offered at a typical company cookout. Take nothing for granted, Thurman says. “To make sure all people are included, the safest thing to do is just ask your people what they want.”

Click here for more information on Furman and other speakers, as well as plant tours and other Production Summit events, and to register for the May 10-11 event. Watch for a follow-up article on Furman’s take on recruitment/retention strategy in May’s issue of Textile Services magazine.