How To Motivate Staff – A Five Step System

A common issue in industry that we hear a lot about at HRwisdom is the issue of staff motivation.

The ability to develop and maintain a high-performing and highly motivated workforce is key to success, or even survival during economic hard times.

How To Motivate StaffToday, we turn to expert HRwisdom contributor Leon Noone for some excellent advice on staff motivation.

Leon established his management consulting business in 1978. His core business is helping managers in small-medium business to improve the day to day job performance of their staff.

Leon offers you five steps to creating a highly motivated workforce.

What’s different though, is that Leon doesn’t actually mention Motivation in any of the five steps.

Over to Leon . . .

Staff Motivation: A 5 Step System To Ensure Success

Staff motivation: is there anything left to be said? Has any employee management issue been analyzed so much? All the analysis and examination is misleading. Only 5 steps are involved.

1. Sort Out Your Marketing

There are two absolute essentials for good marketing: a clear, specific business focus and a narrow specific target market. These two factors must be in place. They are the foundations that support the whole business, including employee performance.

You must know exactly what your business exists to achieve and who your ideal customer is. You cannot expect staff to give you what you want if you are not clear on exactly what it is you’re in business to do and who with.

2. Exact Performance Expectations

Your staff need to know exactly what you expect of them in clear, unambiguous, measurable performance terms.

Don’t bother with generalities about “attitude”, “application” and “co-operation”. If you want 13 widgets a day for the cost of 9.4 cents a widget, you must tell your employees. If you don’t say exactly what you want, you won’t get it.

3. Exact Method Of Measurement

Tell employees precisely the performance you expect. Then tell them exactly how you’ll measure that performance. How will the widgets be counted? How will the production costs be assessed? Must each operator produce 13 widgets or will be the total number be acceptable? Employees need to know this.

4 Put Effective Performance Systems In Place

It’s an old saying but true: “If your systems are poor, your people will fail.” Another is “Put systems in place that make it impossible for employees to fail.” I myself have said and written this hundreds of times. Finally, keep in mind that “a poor system will beat a good performer every time”.

You can have the keenest, most enthusiastic, most skilled and hardest working employees on the planet. Poor systems will stop them dead in their tracks faster than anything else.

5. Establish Measurable Performance Standards

You’ve probably always been told that performance goals are very important. They are. But performance standards are more important than goals. Performance standards tell you precisely whether the goals have been achieved. And they measure progress towards goals too. No performance standards; no goal achievement.

No “Motivation”

Notice that this 5 step method doesn’t mention “motivation”. That’s because motivation is a consequence. When this 5 step System works for you, the consequence will be highly motivated employees. That’s why much of the literature about “motivation” is misplaced.

Two Crucial Realities

The basic human unit in the workplace is the team not the individual. We recruit individuals it’s true. But we expect them to be successful and effective in teams. We construct the workplace with teams. That’s the first reality. Here’s the second.

Employees do not need to “get on well” in order to work effectively together. Don’t spend time trying to “improve interpersonal relations”. Good interpersonal relations are a “consequence of” successful team performance not a “prerequisite for” it.

“Pep” Talks, Counselling And All That

These activities may have some short term value. But they’re no substitute for performance standards and performance systems. Put your time into designing success and achievement for employees to aspire to.

Remember The Business

It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that employees are part of the resource you use to run a successful business. The manager’s job is to use all resources as well as possible. As famous performance expert Geary Rummler says, “An organization is only as effective as its processes”. Concentrate on getting the processes right.  Let me repeat: if your systems are poor, your people will fail.


Keeping staff enthusiastic and committed isn’t child’s play. But it’s not rocket science either. Some gurus would like you to think that it is. You’re not responsible for the total emotional wellbeing of employees. Ricardo Semler, CEO of the very successful Semco, sums it up this way: “My job is to motivate them so that they go home each day proud of their work”. Notice that he accepts that responsibility.

How To Motivate Staff – The Five Step System

Thanks to Leon for his excellent advice on how to motivate staff. Such advice is well-timed as businesses face trying times as the economy continues to suffer.

We encourage you take action on Leon’s five step system.

Remember, you can learn more about Leon and his excellent HR services by visiting his website here: Leon Noone