The engineering project delivery environment is a very stressful environment with a lot of deadlines and complex solutions that need to be overcome on a daily basis. It’s an industry where large corporate companies employ thousands of people on a specific project and the project employees migrate from one company to the next to follow the projects. This phenomenon created a pool of staff available to the industry, that has no real loyalty to the company they work for and focus on optimizing the remuneration they receive while on a project knowing that after the project, they will have to find something else.
Although it works well for the big project houses as they do not need to carry the staff burden when they do not have a project, they often have to execute projects with staff that’s not really motivated to do the work and the efficiency of the delivery suffers.
This article will thus focus on getting the most out of the people that work for you in the engineering project environment by motivating them correctly.
A lot of employers think that money motivates personnel and if you pay them enough, you don’t have to do anything else. Although money is important, and employees need to be able to take care of their families and service their basic needs on a monthly basis, studies actually show that it’s not such a big motivator.
It all starts with the recruitment process, once candidates have been identified and invited for interviews, it’s as important for the employer to sell their business, culture and objectives to the potential candidate as it’s for the candidate to sell him or herself to the employer. Once the employee gets excited with the business and understands the role he or she will play to make this great organization better, you will have a motivated employee to start with.
Although qualifications and previous performance plays a role in the selection process, that won’t get you anywhere if the employee is not motivated to succeed. Attitude should thus play a major role in the selection process of the correct candidate.
Once your employee starts working for you, it’s important that they feel welcome and understand how they will add value to your organization and how important their role is to the business. The biggest mistake any employer can make is to make the new employee feel insignificant in the organization. Even if it’s a graduate with no experience, they should understand that they are the next generation of engineers or project managers in this organization and can contribute towards the success of the business.
As an employer you could have tactics of employing the top academic students and ensuring you get them early by offering them bursaries and other incentives, but if you don’t understand to motivate them, you won’t get real value from your recruits. In many cases you find that personnel that were not necessarily top of their class become superstars in the industry. This happens when employers motivate employees correctly and appoint people with the right attitudes.
Although employees like structure within an organization, generalizing their progress and performance with the industry norm or their peers, it the first way to kill any enthusiasm and motivation. Big companies like to place employees into boxes, for example you have to work as a Junior Engineer for 3 years, then you can become an Engineer. Or you can never perform better than another employee in the ranks even if you do your work a lot better and get to grips with the problems a lot quicker than somebody else. Industry norms exist for the normal, but if you want to grow a motivated performance-based group of employees, you should remove the shackles and allow them to move as quickly as they can.
Employees will always make mistakes, some will make more than other, but in general, nobody plans to do bad work or make mistakes. They should understand that its ok to make mistakes and learn from it. As a motivating employer, you should be there to catch them when they fall but allow them to fall. Finger pointing should not exist in your organization and the only way for any employee to grow and perform, is to take risks and learn from the outcome of these risks.
Studies show that ownership is one of the biggest motivators to any individual. When we feel part of something, we motivate ourselves from within. Its thus very important for employees to feel a sense of ownership in their work and knowing that it’s significant and important to the organization. As an employer or senior manager, you should be very careful not to do all the new employee’s work for them or give them portions that’s so insignificant that they do not feel ownership. Engineers are very bad delegators and want to do everything themselves, this often leads to junior engineers not getting enough exposure and demotivates them. Share schemes work wonders in giving staff purpose and motivating them, this is something that can get introduced early in an employee’s career and keep them motivated for the rest of their career.
As a young engineer and new recruit, the best way to impress your seniors will be when you write a report. There’s a lot more to your job than writing reports but it’s a good way for the senior manager or engineer to judge your capability, thought patterns and logic. As a senior engineer reviewing the document, you have a responsibility to keep your junior engineer motivated. This does not mean that you take a red pen and give thousands of comments on the report and telling the employee how bad the report was and how much better you can write it. Even worse than these comments, is when the Senior Engineer decides that he will rewrite the whole report as he can do it better himself. This is actually a sign of weakness from the Senior Engineer. It will take some time before the Junior Engineer writes a perfect report, how soon that happens is totally up to the Senior Engineer and in the way he handles himself during the review and feedback process.
A major component of motivations starts with trust. If the employee doing the work knows that the employer trusts and depends on him or her, the employee is motivated to deliver this document to ensure the trust is kept in tack. If however the Senior Engineer does not trust that the junior can do the work and also communicates this to anybody that’s in the mood to listen to his whining, the employee probably won’t deliver the document in accordance with the Seniors requirements and everybody will be unhappy and demotivated.
As with endurance athletes that can usually run a lot more kilometers even after their body feels like it cannot go on anymore, employees can also do a lot more than they think. This is again up to the employer or senior engineer to motivate and cheer the employee over the line. People achieve what other people believe they can achieve. So, if you believe in your employees and their abilities to perform the tasks even if it might be a reach for them, they will be motivated to show you they can reach these tasks. Once they reached the task, they will get a boost in self-confidence and reach ever higher levels.
As with anything in life, there is no substitute for positivity. If employees grow up in a positive, motivated and performing environment, they get into the company culture in no time and performance becomes a second nature for them.
Positive thinking runs hand in hand with motivation and having a positive environment is critical to the success of your company. Negative personnel spread negativity like a virus and should be neutralized as soon as possible. If the employer cannot change the attitude of a negative person, they should find something else to waste their negativity on and move on to a different organization.
Working in a motivated team helps everybody to be motivated towards a common goal. It does however happen that certain employees and especially in the larger organizations perform well on their own but cannot work in teams and think they would perform better by walking over their peers to get to the top. This behavior is as bad as negativity and should be eliminated from the group.
Once a group of employees are motivated to perform their tasks and reach their goals, it’s important that the employer understands that it’s a continuous process and motivation should constantly be maintained.
A good way of maintaining motivation in the organization, is to constantly communicate progress and feedback to the group and to show them the results of their performance. Having a transparent process showing employees how the company is improving with their inputs and how effort relates to profit works very well.
The final and probably the most important aspect of motivation is to understand that it flows from the top. The whole companies’ culture is derived from the culture and values the top management instill. You often get smaller businesses that have somebody at the top that only cares about his back pocket, they don’t see the bigger picture and don’t like spreading the wealth. Although they might make enough money to keep the top dog happy, it will never grow into anything more and there will be no loyalty or motivation from the staff.
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