Leaders in the Federal government (and many private sector firms as well) likely feel that their ability to motivate employees is limited because they don’t have a big awards or training budget (or any). They may also be worried that their employees’ are looking elsewhere for employment because Congress hasn’t approved a pay increase in several years. It’s important to realize that while bonuses, training classes, and pay raises are no doubt important for attracting and retaining a workforce…those things don’t provide the DAY TO DAY motivation needed to accomplish amazing things at work. What does help provide that motivation is the employee’s belief that their work is important, meaningful, and aligned to something larger than them. Employees require purpose. We all do.
If you haven’t read Drive by Dan Pink yet you should. It’s been hyped, but it really is pretty brilliant and it will change the way you think about your job and what’s important. Pink’s basic tenant in the book is that what really motivates people isn’t extrinsic things like money. Rather it’s the intrinsic items of mastery, autonomy, and purpose that drive us to achieve our best every day. What I’ve learned by working in an environment that doesn’t have a clear vision of where it wants to go, is that if you can’t align the work you are doing every day to something larger, then your motivation may suffer. Don’t let that happen at your organization.
Make sure your organization has a vision and goals. Talk to your team members about how their contributions align and support the larger vision of the organization. Review and talk about your vision and goals at least every six months. You’ll be amazed at the impact.