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Written by Michelle McDonagh

How Development Keeps Employees Motivated

As a business owner or manager, you will know that employees are one of your most important assets.

Like any asset, you want to ensure you are getting the very best out of each and every employee. Getting the best out of employees means that each employee must feel motivated and engaged in their role.

How can your HR functions help to achieve this?

In this article, we will look at how to ensure that your staff feel motivated and engaged throughout the year through your HR activities. Specifically, we will examine:

– Six key functions of HR

– One important HR function which businesses commonly overlook

– Why the HR function of Development is so important to employee satisfaction

– How to carry out this HR function to maximise employee motivation and reduce staff turnover

– How to handle Renumeration

Six key functions of HR

All strong Human Resource functions operate as a system – think of it as a cycle that continually improves itself from feedback. Each system is tailored to suit every individual company, but all are resting on key strategic pillars such as:

  1. Role profiles – organisational structure, clarity of roles and responsibilities
  2. Compliance – contracts, handbooks, payroll
  3. Performance Management – people have SMART goals/objectives
  4. Commitment – processes to support general well-being and satisfaction
  5. Development – assessment of skill and upskilling to support a career path
  6. Remuneration – balanced reward for personal contribution against company capability and market norms

One important HR function which businesses commonly overlook

The companies I have been supporting through the last few months have all been strongly focused on number 1- 4 above. Now that we are beginning to accept the likelihood of working in this dual way between office/remote location for the foreseeable, it is time to move the focus to Staff Development.

Why the HR function of Development is so important to employee satisfaction

In my experience of running focus groups, employee surveys and attending performance reviews I have found the key is in development. People want to feel they are progressing both personally and professionally. At a society level, we are always working towards the next thing – trying to improve our current standard of living and experience of life. Think about your daily conversations with people – weddings, babies, new houses, living abroad, joining a sports club, gruelling fitness challenges, cruising etc. This is reflected in the workplace as a need to see progress in their roles year on year.

Businesses who lose sight of this desire will lose staff as they begin to feel stagnant adding to organisational costs and a sense of upheaval and distraction.

How to carry out the Development HR function to maximise employee motivation and reduce staff turnover

1.Include a discussion of development in your performance reviews

Summarise the journey the individual has been on since they joined your company. Include:

– new skills and experience they have learned

– how their responsibilities have grown

– how this has contributed to the company.

– specific examples of positive feedback from clients and colleagues.

The manager should give summary feedback also.

2.Give constructive feedback

Build a cultural norm of sharing constructive feedback at all opportunities. Feedback is best received closest to the time of occurrence with specific details included. Don’t wait three months to give feedback on something you observed in the past. During one-to-one/review conversations, summarise the development area i.e. time management by referring to the incident discussed previously i.e. the missed deadline.

The focus of the review conversation is about feeding forward. How can we learn from that incident to improve in the future? You would not have hired the person if you did not see potential in them. At this point, I am assuming they have passed the probation phase. Explain that you want to see the person succeed, you want to see them grow. Once people understand that their managers care, have a vested interest in their success and are giving feedback from a genuine place, they will receive it better.

People will remember and respect managers who were firm with them in expectations and standards, challenged them out of their comfort zone but coached them to improve in a supportive way.

3.Give staff a development plan for the year

Outline a path for the next 12 months – ask them first what skills they would like to focus on developing and how they would like to learn. Then discuss how this compares to the business demands and current competence levels in those areas. Seek opportunities to match their interest areas with business demand for the best results. Identify who is expert in those areas and could mentor them as they learn.

It is good practice to encourage people to take responsibility for their own development through self-learning from reading/online research. Then explore internal coaching or external courses and certifications.

Follow through on this discussion with an individualised development plan, which can be reviewed as part of the performance management cycle. This creates a sense of excitement for the future, a focus for the present and engagement in the organisation.

4.Encourage a supportive team culture

Create structures and opportunities for your team to build relationships with each other. These will sustain them on the more challenging days and give them an informal support structure. Having a positive relationship with your manager and a supportive team will drive positive outcomes from individual effort.

How to handle the Remuneration question

Yes, the next conversation will be remuneration and reward but it is much easier to justify a review if you have a highly engaged performing employee bringing in results.

Smaller companies may not have the budget to give annual increases or promotions. Get creative – look at alternative ways to reward people individually based on what they value. Not every strong competent employee wants to keep getting promoted but they may want a continually challenging and meaningful job. You can provide that!

It may be inevitable that you reach a tipping point and cannot compete with larger companies but at least you have been open and honest about what the company can reasonably provide. In the interim, you have had the benefit of an engaged employee and they have had the benefit of development and coaching, making it a win-win for both.

Don’t let the fear of having difficult conversations stop you from achieving great results and inspiring others in the team. Avoiding the conversation at best, allows the status quo to continue but may eventually mean you lose that employee anyway.

If you need further support in performance management, development planning or renumeration reviews contact Aspire HR Consulting.

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If you would like to discuss any Human Resources matters with Aspire HR, email us now at

or call Michelle on 086 878 2557

©Aspire HR. This document is intended to be a general guide only.