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From the Officer’s Desk: Motivating Employees for High Performance

One of the top priorities for any EMS officer is to support their employees. We must be committed to working with our direct reports and ensuring not only that they are engaged in their day-to-day work but that they are prepared to meet the expected and unexpected demands of the system. We addressed in a previous column how to keep employees engaged; however, the larger goal must be to understand how to motivate them to be high performers on a consistent basis.

What does a high-performing employee look like? High-performing employees seek out assignments and take the initiative to get things done. They exceed work expectations, are committed to quality, deliver projects before deadlines, are thirsty for learning new things, accept feedback as a learning opportunity, and work extremely well with others, just to name a few. High performance must be woven into the organization’s culture and encouraged to permeate throughout. However, it cannot be accomplished unless employees are willing and motivated to perform at that level.

What Contributes to Low-Performing Employees?

First, if EMS leaders aren’t monitoring their direct reports’ day-to-day work performance, they’re falling behind the curve. Employee performance evaluation, feedback, and recognition must be ongoing throughout the year. Knowing how well employees perform on a consistent basis is the first step in building a high-performance team. This approach will allow the EMS officer to detect underperforming employees sooner rather than later.

It’s not uncommon for leaders to assume employees are unmotivated and underperforming as a result of their current job role. However, that might not be the case—it’s essential to speak with them.

Research by psychologist Frederick Herzberg revealed certain factors, also known as hygiene factors, that contributed to job dissatisfaction. These include peer relations, salary and benefits, job security, supervision, work conditions, and organizational policies. Leigh Branham, author of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, suggested employees leave organizations not because of monetary reasons but because they feel their work is not valued, don’t trust leadership, and supervisors don’t provide the support to be successful.

Hygiene factors are not part of the actual work but are aspects that surround it and may contribute to motivation problems and poor performance. Identify and mitigate these so they no longer create dissatisfaction.

Motivating Employees for Top Performance

As there are factors that harm employee motivation and performance, other aspects of an organization’s culture can enhance job satisfaction and motivate employees to become high performers. Once the sources of dissatisfaction have been reduced or eliminated, leaders can begin to implement and improve those motivational factors.

Common motivating factors include opportunities for advancement, the autonomy to get things done, opportunities for personal and professional growth, recognition, achievement, added responsibilities and challenges, and having the tools to accomplish the job.

Promoting these motivating factors will ultimately foster satisfaction, motivation, and commitment. Turning an organization from ordinary to extraordinary begins with taking care of its employees.

10 Steps to Keep Employees Motivated

The leader’s commitment to motivate employees to become high performers must not end once the employee reaches that high level. Leaders must find tactics that ensure employees remain motivated and perform at that level consistently. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. It all starts with the organization’s leaders—evaluate yourselves to determine if you’re helping or hindering employees from becoming high performers.

2. Be available to mitigate or eliminate poor hygiene. Demonstrate you care about these concerns.

3. Make it a priority to adopt motivating factors. Recognize employees; provide autonomy and opportunities for growth and promotion.

4. Meet with employees to establish a high-performance baseline. This will allow leaders to determine if the employee’s performance drops below its established threshold.

5. Be available to mentor and coach employees.

6. Promote a culture of collaboration among team members and other internal and external stakeholders.

7. Create opportunities for employees to grow their skills and support them with their day-to-day work activities.

8. Make it a priority to recognize employees for the great work they do on a regular basis.

9. Give employees a purpose, establish trust, and promote open lines of communication.

10. Don’t forget how important it is to have fun at work. Give employees a reason besides a paycheck to come to work. If employees enjoy coming to work, they will most likely be motivated to become high performers.

Stay committed to mitigating poor hygiene factors and promoting motivational factors. This will ensure employees remain motivated and display high performance in all levels of the organization.

Orlando J. Dominguez, Jr., MBA, RPM, is assistant chief of EMS for Brevard County Fire Rescue in Rockledge, Fla. He has more than 30 years of EMS experience and has served as a firefighter-paramedic, flight paramedic, field training officer, EMS educator, and division chief. He has authored two books, including EMS Supervisor: Principles and Practice, and is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. Follow him at @ems_officer. 


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