9 Tips for Staff Management and Motivation
It’s the end of the year, and that means a few things: The holiday season is upon us, and so is our annual Book Business “tips” issue. We pack as many tips on as many topics as we can into one issue. The end of the year is also performance-review time at many companies. As I prepare my own staff reviews, I got to thinking about being a manager and about the different management styles I’ve worked under throughout my career. Since it seemed most befitting to devote my column this month to “tips,” I decided to share some tips for better staff management and motivation that I’ve gleaned from good managers and companies, and that employees and managers at book publishing companies have shared with us as well.
When your staff’s positions become “stale” (they’re no longer learning new skills and advancing in their career), this is the prime time for them to jump ship. To help avoid this:
1. Ask your staff periodically what they like and dislike about their positions. Can you address concerns over excessive workloads or restructure workloads to give a task they dislike to someone else? (Someone else may enjoy the new task, or maybe a subordinate needs to learn it anyway.)
2. Enable staff to take career-development courses. If it’s not in your budget, can you cut elsewhere to create a budget for it? Can you offer at least a percentage of tuition reimbursement?
3. In addition to formal annual reviews, have staff fill out self-evaluations. Ask them to not only evaluate where they feel they need improvement, but also skills they would like to develop and their long-term goals. Create a plan to achieve these goals.
4. In departments where there is little advancement opportunity, create new opportunities. If you have, for example, one head of production who is unlikely to leave, and a series of production managers, can you create a “senior production manager” title to promote your best production managers? If staff feels they are not being recognized and have nowhere to “go” in their current position, they may think they have to leave to advance.
In our recent “Best Book Publishing Companies to Work For” study (Book Business, October 2007), flexible work schedules ranked among the top reasons people rated their companies as great places to work. Here are some do’s and don’ts that can help your company or department be a little more flexible:
5. Don’t be a “clock watcher.” This may seem ridiculous to some of us, but it is, unfortunately, not a rare occurrence. I have worked for and know many others who have worked for supervisors who monitor their staff’s every move, from what time they come in to how long their lunch breaks are. (Notice the “have worked”—past tense.) Unless your staff is paid hourly (in which case you should have more formal methods of monitoring their time), let staff manage their own time. “Clock watching” creates an untrusting, disrespectful environment that builds staff resentment. Let hard-working staff take long lunches when they need to, and let them come in late or leave early when they are just “burned out.”
6. Create a flexible work schedule. Some companies have limited sick, vacation and personal time, and personal events can eat up time off like a parasite. Can you allow your employees to work from home periodically (such as when appliances are being delivered), so they can save their sick and vacation time? If your company doesn’t allow this, consider trying to get permission for your department or discussing the benefits of this kind of policy companywide.
7. Include your staff in decisions that affect the department, from what technology they will be using to new hires. Nothing breeds discontent like excluding your staff.
8. Share as much big-picture information as you can. Let them know when the company or their relevant products are doing well and when they are not.
9. Celebrate achievements. One manager commented that she brings in donuts for her staff every time book sales increase by a certain amount. Even small acknowledgements can mean a lot.
If You’re Working Under a ‘Clock Watcher’ …
If you happen to be an unfortunate executive working under a “clock watcher,” a noncommunicative supervisor or in a department where little concern is given to your advancement or achievements, here’s a tip that may not help, but it’s worth a shot: Put a sticky note on this page and slip this issue into your supervisor’s mailbox (make sure your name isn’t on the magazine’s mailing label, of course), and then hope for the best.