Motivating the unmotivated

After my recent webinar, “Effectively Growing Your Key Talent: Are You Sunlight and Water — or Just Manure?” I received some interesting questions. I thought I’d share some of them and my responses over the next few posts.

Q: Some staff just do not like change. How to motivate them to approach other types of work?

A: It’s true that some people are happy with the status quo. They don’t really see why they need to do anything differently, especially if they get feedback on reviews and from their boss that they are performing just fine.

Their manager’s job, then, is to help them see that status quo isn’t acceptable. In fact, if they don’t learn and grow new information and skills, they are quickly falling behind. Few jobs stay the same for years. Most require some updating. In fact, in some industries, things change rapidly — sometimes daily.

First, have this conversation in private immediately. Don’t wait for their annual review as that’s too late for them to do anything about it. And you will have to suffer through months’ of your own and the team members’ frustration.

Sometimes their unwillingness to learn and grow may be an act of passive aggression. They may be mad about something else going on at work but don’t know how to express it. Ask them what is preventing them from learning new skills. You may be surprised that the answer is a form of protest about you, a policy, or another team member. Or even something that happened a decade ago!

If keeping themselves current — and employable — isn’t enough to motivate them, help them see their complacency is costing others extra work as their colleagues have to pick up the tasks that the stuck one can’t do. Some people are more motivated by not wanting to negatively affect others.

And if you have to, make their lack of growth public by posting a chart showing what each staff member is trained and competent to do. It will be clear who is at the bottom of the list of competencies and shame may be a motivator!

What have you done that motivates the unmotivated?