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How to Hire and Retain Self-Motivated Employees

As a Hiring Manager, you know hiring and retaining self-motivated people brings tremendous value. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you probably have at least one or more employees on your team who put forth just enough effort to fly under the radar or are considered borderline performers. Even the best Hiring Managers have had it happen…hiring the employee who interviews well yet turns out to be a borderline performer. So what can you do as a Hiring Manager to select and retain self-motivated people?

Hire people who have shown a demonstrated passion for what they do 

Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Employees who love what they do share it during the interview process. They’re driven by a purpose greater than themselves and share experiences that show their excitement and determination when working on a challenging project. They will say, “I think I would have done this even if I wasn’t paid for it.” Their passion for their work is evident and that passion has likely led to innovative and positive outcomes for their previous employers. To manage a self-motivated employee, it is imperative that you establish and communicate a clear purpose for their work and contributions. Encourage them to exercise the strengths they bring. If there is only one message you take away from this blog, it is that micro-managing a self-motivated employee kills their motivation. If you continue to micromanage, it’s a guarantee they will revise their resume and leave you.

Hire people who are continuous learners

Research has taught us that individuals engage in two types of mindsets: the fixed mindset or a growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, individuals often believe talent and intelligence is fixed and incapable of being improved. With a growth mindset, people believe talent and intelligence can be cultivated with effort. Per research, which type of mindset generally experiences better workplace outcomes over time and why? The answer is people with growth mindsets tend to do better because they are ‘continuous learners’ and when confronted with adversity, they respond with continued effort rather than ‘giving up.’ When asked, “Tell me about your most challenging project that was difficult to accomplish or filled with adversity. What did you do and how did you handle it?”, listen carefully to the clues of a ‘can-do attitude’ that demonstrates resilience and an ability to adapt to a changing landscape. Yet, don’t give up on your ‘fixed mindset’ employees. Keep encouraging them to revise their thinking patterns toward a growth mindset that says, “I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’ll keep trying.” Doing this will not only assist them in being more resilient, but will keep your whole team engaged and working cooperatively together.

Maximize your team’s strengths and minimize weaknesses

We have all heard that we should ‘maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses,’ yet it seems to be easier said than done. Gallup research has consistently said that having the opportunity to utilize our strengths on a regular basis fosters self-motivation, as well as greater engagement and well-being. Look at your own skills as a manager – are you an ‘igniter’ or an ‘extinguisher’? The results of your team over time may tell the answer. The best manager builds people up by developing, helps to break down barriers to success, and guides and challenges in a positive manner. If you’ve experienced an “extinguisher,’ they pour water on your efforts, make you question your own competence, lack trust in their own staff, and micromanages, which ultimately incapacitates and destroys motivation.

In conclusion, hiring self-motivated people adds tons of value, yet the challenge is to retain them. Hiring people with passion for their work and have a positive ‘can do’ outlook when combined with an opportunity to work for an ‘igniter’ of talent is a powerful combination. Try some of these ideas.

Linn Davidson
With more than 30 years of experience, Linn has served as the top Human Resource Executive and held HR Administrator roles for healthcare, insurance, Federal contracting, and higher education organizations. She has held responsibility for Human Resources including recruitment and selection, performance management, employee relations, compensation/incentive plans, EEO/Affirmative Action, as well as Employee Benefits, Learning and Development, and facilitation of corporate strategic planning processes. As a result of her C-Suite experience and consulting roles, she has developed a unique ability to listen to, understand and relate to your Executive and Director-level staffing needs, develop strategic staffing plans to secure passive top talent, or recruit and select for hard-to-fill roles. She is dedicated to serving clients with the highest standards through exceptional customer service. With a B.S. in Business Administration and an Executive Masters of Business Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Linn can supply the tools and resources necessary to understand your business needs and to help you make informed decisions to select top talent from among the best and brightest recruits.



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