Keeping teams motivated in challenging times

Establishing or maintaining an advantage in today's competitive marketplace requires teams that are motivated and subscribe to long-term organizational goals. While this is accomplished by teams that are excited about the organization and are passionate about their work, many team members can be cynical. 

Finding assignments that appeal to workers' strengths and interests can be an effective means of boosting engagement and motivating workers, but this is not always a possibility. Instead, increasing employees feelings of ownership of their organization has proven an effective method to boost motivation since the 1970s.

According to a study run by Qualtrics and analyzed by Forbes, increasing the feeling of ownership employees experience can result in a multitude of benefits for an organization, including higher employee engagement, lower turnover, increased financial performance and increased motivation. 

In challenging times, organizations often experience declines in morale and productivity as workers become disengaged and begin to lose faith. To avoid this result, employees need to be made to recognize that the success or failure of the organization depends on their efforts. 

Increasing employee feelings of ownership is more than offering a profit sharing plan. In fact, studies have shown that these plans provide minimal boosts to productivity. Instead, psychological ownership is required—this is when employees feel that their position or organization is "theirs." This necessitates that teams consider their organization as part of their self-identity. 

The results of the Qualtrics study showed that employee autonomy and task identity were key elements in boosting feelings of ownership. 

Increasing employee autonomy requires leadership encouraging staff to use their own best judgment when reacting to a challenge. Each team member should also be encouraged to contribute in making decisions that will influence their daily work. In addition to boosting morale and motivation, this strategy can often help increase the speed of production, by removing the common challenges faced by teams that may have been overlooked by management. 

Task identity is defined by Forbes as the extent to which a job allows someone to be involved from the beginning to the end of a project. Research by Qualtrics has shown that seeing a task through to completion is an important element in engaging employees in their work and building professional relationships.  When this is not possible, communicating how employees' actions contribute to the success of the final product helps them view the organization as a collection of peers rather than an amorphous entity. 

When employees are allowed the opportunities to increase feelings of ownership, organizations enjoy the many benefits of a more motivated and determined workforce. In companies with an entrenched culture, making this change may be difficult. Organizational change management consultants can help to reduce resistance to changes in the company culture, and boost employee engagement in determining the future of their organization.