In the last year, the job market in Singapore has become a fiercely fought battleground, buoyed by the country’s impressive economic growth. Subsequently, hiring and retention initiatives have risen rapidly up the corporate agenda and, today, many of the country’s top performers are mulling over attractive new offers and opportunities.

Due to this, a new phase of corporate anxiety is upon us, along with a fresh challenge for business leaders: maintaining motivation in the face of an evolving and increasingly unsettled workforce. 

Leading by example and building personal credibility are primary tools for business leaders seeking ways to motivate their workforce. But as the workforce churns from departure, and the requirement for support and guidance from management is magnified, what else can C-level executives do to motivate their staff? 

Align supervisors

Strategic initiatives — including employee engagement — gain traction when business leaders successfully align supervisors to their key messages and programmes. Leadership demonstrated through supervisors is crucial to strategic success. Think of a car with a broken axis. You can rev the engine all you like, but if there’s no connection to the wheels, you go nowhere.

In organisations, supervisors   represent that axis. They need to be credible with their direct reports, have adequate resources available to them, and have the commitment from their work groups.

Meaningful rewards

All too often, senior managers see external rewards as tools to drive motivation. While an intuitive reaction might be to focus on material rewards like money or extra vacation days, research has demonstrated that these kinds of systems actually depress internal motivation.

Certainly, people want to be paid what they’re worth — but they are motivated by far more than money. They want to grow. They want to be valued. They want to be in control of their career.

As business leaders work to encourage internal motivation among their workforce, it is critical that employees are rewarded in meaningful ways that contribute to their overall growth.

One such reward is autonomy, where employees are given boundaries that allow them independence within their given roles and responsibilities. It empowers them to meet and exceed expectations, while rewarding them for their past efforts.

Activate commitment

In today’s business environment, organisations need creativity and dedication from all employees — from the CEO to the frontline worker — if they are to succeed.

Establishing commitment begins with helping employees see the connection between their daily activities and their organisation’s goals. Successful supervisors further gain workgroup commitment by:

* Showing how the work of each employee fits into the bigger picture;

* Creating a sense of ownership of the work;

* Making sure employees have clear directions and know how they will be  measured; and

* Creating a sense that the workgroup is doing something worthwhile.

Accessibility to leaders

Without a solid relationship with senior leaders, supervisors and managers can’t count on the support they need to achieve results. As supervisors work to motivate employees, they must also have a strong relationship with their own managers to ensure they are communicating the right priorities and messages.

Business leaders need to ensure their team understands that their best relationships are focused not on “pleasing the boss” but on establishing an alliance between partners. Supervisors can develop a mutually supportive relationship with the organisation’s senior leaders by:

* Knowing what’s important to the manager and working to support it;

* Offering the manager solutions, not just problems;

* Keeping their manager up-to-date on any issues he or she is expected to own; and

* Asking directly for help when necessary, rather than waiting for the manager to offer it.

Show respect

Business leaders must convey to and through supervisors that everyone in the organisation is respected. An AchieveGlobal study of employees in Singapore revealed that “respect” is an attribute valued most by all employees, no matter what their generation — Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists.

It is worth noting that this was the only area where there was strong alignment among the vast majority of respondents. Showing respect and instilling respect for others is a proven way to encourage motivation in an organisation.

Taking a person’s skills, experience, drive, perspective, energy and even personality into account helps communicate your respect for the employee. There are numerous ways to show respect including:

* Encouraging others to share their ideas and perspectives;

* Highlighting and utilising the unique skills of employees; and

* Focusing on being a professional coach, in addition to a manager.

Prepare for trouble

Maintaining and enhancing staff motivation will become increasingly important in 2011, as employers battle aggressive recruitment strategies designed to monopolise industry knowledge and expertise.

The aforementioned tactics and philosophies should be at the forefront of business leaders’ minds and imbedded into their tactics. Motivation, after all, is a company’s most effective weapon in the fight for employee retention.