There are those employees that are your star performers. You can tell from their attitude and accomplishments that they really want to be part of your company. If you were going to give them a numerical score, they would easily be nines or tens.

And then there are those that do their job, but not with any sense of excitement but more along the lines of “I’m here so I might as well work.” You can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong. Their performance reviews put them in the “adequate but not highly driven” category, and you have a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn’t take much to entice them to go elsewhere.

It’s frustrating because you are fairly certain that, if they just were a little more enthusiastic, ambitious or motivated, they would definitely be an asset to the company. You just can’t figure out what’s wrong with them.

While for some employees, it’s simple a square peg-round hole issue, for others, it might be because there’s an imbalance between  what their motivational needs are and what their position provides.

If you want motivated employees, then you need to understand what will motivate them. And once that becomes clear, you can answer those requirements, which will make for more inspires and energized employees and a more productive outcome for your business.

So how do you find out, given that many people aren’t sure what they want, only that what they have isn’t it? Have an informal one-on-one that explores the following categories, using the provided questions to guide the conversation.

(Not sure you are up to the task or concerned that the answers may be less than honest? An outside consultant might be the solution.)

The Environment

For some employees, it can really be as basic as where they are working. Find out their preferences by asking questions such as:

  • Would you rather work in the building or out in the field (meeting with clients or handling service calls, for example)?
  • What type of workspace do you prefer: one with a degree of privacy or a shared space with plenty of interaction?
  • If you preferred environment isn’t an option, what changes would make the alternative more workable and productive for you?

By knowing where they feel most comfortable and productive, you may be able to adjust their physical situation to generate a shift in their psychological attitude.

The Schedule

There are those employees who thrive on the traditional 9-to-5 routine, while others do better with a flexible schedule, either because their circadian rhythms start earlier or later than others or because they have personal obligations that don’t fit a standard work schedule. Ask:

  • Are there certain times of the day when you feel most energized, inspired or productive?
  • Do you prefer a highly structured environment or one where you have a certain amount of autonomy over your schedule—for example, working four 10-hour days versus five 8-hour ones, or starting earlier or staying later rather than the regular time-in/time-out routine?
  • What would be your ideal mix of working within a conventional schedule versus one where you have more control over your hours?

Once you understand that, you may be able to make an accommodation that will work for both of you.

The Interaction

Team players versus loners, self-directed versus guided—all businesses have a mix of types and it can be challenging to deal with if you don’t know in which group each employee belongs. Find out the preferred level of communication and collaboration by asking:

  • Do you prefer to work independently or as part of a team? What are some of the aspects you like most about your preference?
  • What would be your ideal mix of working independently versus working in a group?
  • Do you work better with a more hands-on/interactive manager or one who assigns the task then allows you to function more independently, but is available if you need input?

While there may be times when the loners have to mix or the team players have to go it alone, understanding in which category each person operates best allows you to make the most of their psychological strengths. As for self-directed versus guided, the former may view a hands-on manager as an indication of a lack of trust while the latter may need the frequent check-ins to help stay on track.

The Pressure

Some employees thrive on high-pressure environments, where each day is a rush to put out fires and meet ever-changing deadlines. But for others, that can be a recipe for ulcers and migraines, not to mention an inability to function at their best. The following questions may provide some clues as to how much pressure is too much:

  • Do you thrive in a fast-paced environment or in one with reasonable timeframes for assignments?
  • Are you a “planner” (someone who prefers to think through options) or a “pantser” (someone who can make good on-the-fly decisions)?
  • What would be your ideal mix of working within an environment where you have time to organize versus putting the wheels on the car while it’s moving?

Both “planners” and “pantsers” are valuable in a company, but they need to be assigned a role that fits their capabilities for maximum results.

This isn’t a question of adjusting your business to meet your employees’ likes and dislikes but rather understanding the conditions in which they will function optimally. Then you can explore options that will accommodate their needs, thereby making them more motivated and engaged—a transformational change that’s a win-win for both parties.


Discover what Transformation Point can do for you and your company. Take advantage of a unique opportunity to have a one-hour telephone consultation with Transformation Point founder and CEO Kevin L. King, when he’ll help you better define your challenges and provide ideas on how to address them. Call 888-202-3411 today or schedule a consultation today!

Schedule a Consultation!