Employee motivation: how to secure buy in

Moira Grassick - Chief Operating Officer

September 12 2023

First published: September 12th 2023
Last updated: September 12th 2023

Ireland’s rugby squad is up and running at Rugby World Cup 2023.

Whatever the outcome in France this year, the squad have already achieved groundbreaking successes in winning a Grand Slam, beating the All Blacks in New Zealand and being ranked number 1 in the world.

The Irish rugby squad and wider management team are clearly doing something right.

Is there anything for employers to learn from the Irish team’s recent success? Let’s take a look at some lessons from the rugby world that managers and business owners could transfer to the workplace…

Long term view v short term fix

When Andy Farrell took the reins from Joe Schmidt, the results suggested that the new head coach’s tenure could be short-lived.

To his credit, Andy Farrell stuck to his guns and managed to weather the short-term concerns by making incremental progress culminating in his team recently rising to number 1 in the world.

While there was pressure to deliver performances in the short-term, Farrell recognised that the only way to address weaknesses in the Irish team was to make a long-term commitment to developing the players’ skills and a more varied style of play.

And to the players’ credit, they bought into the vision and kept the long-term goal in front of them when the short-term results were discouraging.

Identify meaningful goals

To be successful, business owners need to find the right mix of short-term and long-term goals for staff to buy into.

Being clear on the long-term goals is more important than finding short-term solutions.

Business owners should aim to take a long-term view of their business model and assess how engaged employees are by the overall goals.

An engaged workforce that is motivated by a long-term goal is much more likely to deliver continued future success.

Having an answer for ‘what do I get out of it?’

Analogies between sport and business tend to break down when managers have no answer for an employee who finds performance goals all very well but wants to know ‘what do I get out of it?’

The glory of a World Cup win is a sufficiently unifying force for the Irish rugby team. The challenge for business owners is to find a unifying goal that will get their employees’ engines revving.

Regular communication with employees

To improve engagement, business owners should meet one-to-one with employees to clarify what the individual and collective goals are.

Most importantly, employers should highlight how the employee’s individual role contributes to the overall goal.

Employees may not see how their work is connected to the overall goal. Identifying a strong link between the employee’s contribution and the overall goal and rewarding a strong performance will help maintain motivation levels.

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