You might find motivational posters in offices, cubicles and workplace walls. From quirky to dramatic, these posters are meant to inspire employees and encourage them to be more productive. Motivational posters also do more than just inspire. Their ultimate goal is to make employees feel interested in completing projects or achieving goals and objectives, thereby boosting productivity. That is the theory at least. But do they actually work?
Often, posters that work best are ones with interesting and thought-provoking designs. Posters that relate to your business are also typically more effective than generic ones. If you do want to have motivation posters in your workplace, you might want to ask employees to design their own as a team building exercise. Alternatively, you can ask a professional designer to create posters that align with your company’s values and branding.
In many cases, motivational posters don’t increase productivity. Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist and author, notes that it really isn’t possible to know where and when these types of posters are effective. Burnett argues that the most motivated employees are the ones that feel independent and autonomous. Plastering an office with overbearing posters that supposedly inspire with motivational quotes and stirring photographs may have the opposite effect. It might make employees feel like they are being micromanaged or pestered about being more productive.
Research into how workplace posters have impacted productivity and success has been lacking, but there is some evidence the supports the argument that motivational posters may not always work. A study undertaken by Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that some motivational posters don’t resonate with audiences that are unable to relate to what is being communicated. Specifically, tales about athletes who are ready to give up but find the inner strength to succeed might inspire other exhausted athletes but have the opposite effect on those of us that aren’t athletic or people who haven’t exerted themselves in the same way or less athletic.
If motivational posters don’t really do the trick, then what really does motivate employees?
Incentives might come in the form of bonuses or annual increases for meeting targets or exceeding objectives. The process for determining the reward must be transparent. One way of achieving this is to ask employees to develop performance plans at the beginning of each year that set out key performance indicators and objectives. Regular staff evaluations will help track progress and a final annual review is used to determine whether (and how) employees have met their objectives. The bonus or raise is then directly tied to documented performance and merit.
Employees want to understand where they belong in an organisation and how they contribute in a meaningful way. Helping employees see the bigger picture and how the fit into the overall picture of a business will help them feel like they are making a difference. This sense of feeling needed and contributing to a greater good often motivates most people.
Employee well-being is a big motivator. Employees are affected by their environment. For example, not having access to the right tools and even comforts like ergonomic chairs and office equipment may impact productivity and morale. From the choice of artwork to the colour palette of an office, the design of a workplace influences well-being and productivity. Using a professional interior designer may help align your décor with your company’s brand and vision while creating a positive work environment. Surveying your employees will also help create an environment that inspires.
Recognising employees is another great way to motivate a workforce. Feeling valued helps make employees feels like their efforts and contributions to the business are appreciated. Recognition can take the form of regular nods to staff at meetings or in day-to-day interactions. It might also come in the form of having a staff recognition scheme, like an annual awards programme that recognises the work of individuals and teams during the previous year.
Generally, what motivates employees is different from individual to individual. It is important for employers to understand their staff and what motivates them to contribute and be productive. One way to find out is by giving employees a questionnaire. You may find out that what motivates staff is the working environment or flexible work arrangements. Or you might determine that most staff are motivated by financial compensation for good work.