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Is Productivity Low? How You Can Boost Your Government Team’s Motivation

17 February 2021

Public sector leaders face an inherent juxtaposition in their roles. Despite having a direct impact on people’s lives (think health, policing, courts system, etc.) and the broader community, research suggests government workers are more difficult to motivate than their private sector counterparts.

The reasons for this are many and varied, such as:

  • Negative attitudes about government work and workers.
  • Difficulty in defining and measuring success.
  • Frequent and abrupt leadership changes.
  • A comparatively older workforce (according to McKinsey, the average age of public sector employees increases by one year every three years in Australia.)
  • Restrictive rules (red tape) and employee protections.
  • Limited financial incentives relative to the private sector

However, these reasons don’t mean that public sector workers are unmotivatable. They are simply considerations a leader may need to take into account when stimulating and inspiring their government team. Due to this, we’ve put together some top strategies and tactics to help leaders boost motivation within their team. 

Build relationships

Individual workers have different motivations. Some employees are motivated by remuneration, others by work-life balance and others by the work itself. To better understand the motivations driving your team,  it is essential to build strong internal relationships. 

Like any social relationship, particularly in a professional context, communication and trust are essential. This can be built over time by regular one-on-one catch ups with each team member. Get to know each individual – their likes, dislikes, frustrations and desires inside and outside of the office. Keep things informal where possible and cultivate a relationship of trust and comfort. Strong leader-employee relationships will help you build a clearer picture of what truly motivates individuals, allowing you to craft more effective team motivation strategies.

Develop a reward system

What’s in it for me?” Workers intrinsically seek reward for their efforts. So, to motivate them, you may need to incentivise them first. This can be done by developing a reward system. 

Often a top challenge for leaders is successfully balancing competition and cooperation between individuals and teams. This can be managed by introducing both  individual- and team-based goals, with trackable and easy to understand KPIs and a valued reward upon completion.

Rewards don’t have to be financial. Often in government teams, budgetary and/or regulatory constraints will typically restrict financial rewards. However, non-cash incentives such as extra days off or in-office perks can be just as effective in motivating teams. 

Recognise good work

While incentives are important, perhaps more important is regular and genuine recognition. Recognising good work is perhaps the simplest and most effective strategy for motivating your team. It’s impossible to put a value on the sense of pride and achievement an employee feels when they are acknowledged for their efforts, which in-turn is a strong motivator. 

This is why many companies host award nights to demonstrate their appreciation, celebrating individuals for the good work that they do. Recognition doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge promotion or major award night. A simple pat-on-the-back or ad hoc announcement can be just as valued by an individual. What’s important, is that recognition is regular and genuine, and not just a show to tick the acknowledgement box. 

Offer opportunity

Offering opportunities are another effective strategy to motivate government teams. While some employees are comfortable where they sit, others will have an eye on the road ahead. For these more ambitious individuals, dangling relevant career advancement  (e.g. a promotion) opportunities are important to maintain motivation. 

To identify these individuals, map out vertical and/or horizontal career paths for each of your workers. Understand their current and future career goals, and direct them to opportunities already in-pace that are available to them, or create new opportunities to keep them motivated. An organisation that can successfully do this, is more likely to retain individuals and have a more motivated team. 

In some cases, an organisation may not be able to accommodate the career aspirations of an individual. Yet, they can still play an important role in helping them reach their career goals by offering training, workshops and mentoring opportunities. If an employee feels a leader is invested and supportive of their professional development, they are more likely to be motivated. 

Boost happiness

A happy workplace is a productive and motivated workplace. If you enjoy what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life, or so the saying goes.

While ‘ways to create happiness’ is a topic that deserves its own blog (or religion), the following tactics may help lift the spirits of an unmotivated team:

  • Structured team-building exercises
  • Friendly non-work-related competitions
  • Work social clubs
  • Nights out or weekends away
  • Good deeds (shouting lunch or Friday night drinks, screening a movie on a quiet day)
  • Work flexibility (remote working, working outside)
  • Autonomy

Craft a great environment

Work environment plays a key role in team motivation. Uninspiring office spaces lead to uninspiring work being done. Many public sector agencies and departments still operate in spaces with all-beige walls and isolated cubicles. Replace the staid with lightness, brightness, colour and collaboration, and create an environment that will boost motivation.

There’s a reason why tech giants have open plan offices with relaxation spaces, games areas and hot desks. These elements have been shown to increase motivation, collaboration, productivity, talent acquisition and talent retention.

But my team doesn’t even have an office anymore,’ you might say. Controlling the work environment is one of the most difficult challenges presented by COVID-19. But by helping your team to build their home office, providing both the software tools and physical equipment they need to work well, you can mitigate the risk of low productivity.

Sure, public sector workers have historically been more difficult to motivate. However, the challenges faced by leaders in the space are far from insurmountable; by using a few relatively simple strategies, you can ensure that your workers not only become more productive, but stay longer, and attract more top talent to your team in the long run.

If you’re ready to build the ultimate public sector team, Ignite is ready to help you every step of the way. Get in touch with our friendly team today.

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