Empathy and setting short-term goals for workers are two of the key ways employers can motivate their staff in the workplace, latest research reveals.
Scarlett Associates conducted a research study looking at how neuroscience could be practically applied in the workplace to improve employee motivation.
Some 40 managers from four organisations - BAE Systems, Lloyds Bank, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, and Orbit Housing Group - took part in the study, which looked into employee motivation, performance management systems, and staff appraisals.
After an initial educational workshop which examined the participants' behaviours and motivational skills, the leaders returned to the workplace to apply the skills they learned. A few months later, they provided feedback to the researchers on what changes had taken place amongst their staff.
The researchers found employers setting staff short-term goals made a difference in the workplace - saying this gave staff a sense of achievement, enhanced their motivation, and brought a ‘feel good' factor to employees, activating the reward part of the brain and releasing positive-thinking chemicals like dopamine.
Equally, staff felt less pressured and allowed the prefrontal cortex of their brains - the aspect that does the planning and decision making - work more effectively due to effective motivation and incentivising methods.
Scarlett Associates director Hilary Scarlett, the co-author of the research, said: "Giving staff short-term goals can make a real difference to their productivity because it gives them a sense of achievement. That in turn people on the positive mindset so they go back to work the next day in a better place rather than constantly feeling that they are failing."
"Constantly putting staff under pressure puts them into a threat state of mind, sometimes making them distracted and anxious. You can do that for a while, but if you constantly keep people in the state of stress the prefrontal cortex of our brain which does much of the thinking and planning starts to close down restricting their productivity.
Scarlett added: "Understanding how our brains work better is a real win-win situation for employers. It's a case of smarter thinking with reward strategy. Employers have missed a huge trick in terms of extrinsic motivators which don't cost a lot of money but can have a great impact on how employees perform. These include social connections at work and employees feeling like they're being treated fairly and with respect.
"For a lot of the leaders involved in the research said it made them more empathetic towards their workers. One area that had a big impact was mindfulness, with employers having emotional control, staying calm and focused rather than reacting to circumstances."
The technology to improve employees’ wellbeing is already here. But it is now in employers’ hands to make sure it is used to create successful corporate wellness programmes
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