Career Development

The Best Ways to Motivate Your Team

February 14, 2020

Motivation is one of many factors that contribute to being satisfied with your career. While self-motivation is certainly important, it is also helpful to receive external motivation from people at work such as supervisors and colleagues.

As a manager, understanding how to motivate employees is one of your greatest responsibilities as it can positively impact productivity and reduce turnover rates.

How to motivate employees

There are several ways to provide your employees with the motivation that they need to do their best work and achieve both personal and organizational goals.

Here are several employee motivation ideas you can implement in your workplace to support productivity and job satisfaction:

  1. Institute a rewards system
  2. Make your work environment as welcoming as possible
  3. Keep the lines of communication open
  4. Provide opportunities for career development
  5. Give your team freedom
  6. Be the type of leader people want to follow
  7. Ask your employees
  8. Other tips for finding meaningful motivators for employees

In this article, we will discuss the details of each motivation method and how you might apply each for your team.

1. Institute a rewards system

If you have not done so already, implementing a rewards system can offer motivation for people to work towards. While people can find intrinsic motivation through their belief in company values and genuine enjoyment in their work, rewarding top performers shows your appreciation and emphasizes standards for others to work towards.

There are several ways you can reward an employee for hard work:

  • Compensation
  • Recognition
  • Appreciation
  • Benefits

Depending on your position and budget, you may be able to use all or just a few of these reward systems. Recognition and appreciation are the fastest and most cost-effective rewards you can adopt. Recognizing quality work will keep individuals motivated to continue to exceed expectations.

For example, you might send a personal thank you note or email to an employee who has performed especially well or has received positive feedback from a client or colleague. A personal thank you will let an employee know they are doing a great job and enforce a strong work ethic. For a great group effort, you might consider offering a team to lunch to celebrate and recognize their efforts when they achieve certain goals on a monthly, quarterly or semi-annual basis.

If you feel it would be beneficial for your team, you might also try implementing a rewards point system. One way to do this is through regular performance reviews. You can set up a point system based on their performance level and reward top performers after each round of reviews. For example, you might explain that one to seven points are rewarded the main responsibilities of each individual role as follows:

7 – Consistently performs according to a ‘role model’ standard.

6 – Almost always performs according to a ‘role model’ standard.

5 – Performs at the ‘role model’ standard about 50% of the time and at the ‘meets expectations’ level about 50% of the time.

4 – Performs consistently at that the ‘meets expectations’ level.

3 – Performs at the ‘meets expectations’ level about 50% of the time and at the ‘below expectations’ level about 50% of the time.

2 – Almost always performs at the ‘below expectations’ level.

1 – Consistently performs at the ‘below expectations’ level.

As a result, they can earn rewards such as an extra vacation day or something more tangible, like a gift card of their choice. Make sure it is very clear how individuals can earn top points by explaining expectations as it pertains to each person’s role. Hold consistent performance reviews on an annual, semi-annual or quarterly basis.

Read more: Using Performance Management in the Workplace

2. Make your work environment as welcoming as possible

Creating an open, encouraging and welcoming environment provides a space for individuals to offer their best work. Being attentive to and maintaining a positive team workspace and culture is important for employee motivation.

Here are a few tips to make your workplace feel welcoming and encouraging:

  • Take advantage of natural light. Let as much natural light into your office as possible. Use lighter blinds that eliminate glare but still let in some light.

  • Add plants. Adding greenery to your office can make it more aesthetically pleasing. Plants are also proven to reduce stress and increase productivity.

  • Make it comfortable. If your employees are going to spend most of their time at a desk, invest in comfortable, supportive chairs. You might also invest in ergonomic supplies such as neutral-position mouses and standing desks. Make sure your office is well-ventilated and properly heated and cooled.

  • Open the space up. Opening your office space as it is possible will promote a collaborative environment that can motivate your employees to work more with one another. To do this, consider removing physical barriers. Replacing cubicles with desks might be beneficial if it is possible with your budget.

3. Keep the lines of communication open

Communication is a key component of staff motivation. Maintaining consistent communication allows individuals to know exactly how they are performing against expectations. It also removes ambiguity about goals, priorities, how to complete tasks and how to work together.

Create and maintain an open line of communication with your team. Ask them if anything is keeping them from reaching their normal productivity levels. Make it clear that they are free to express any concerns that they have related to the workplace.

Consider applying the following techniques for improved communication:

  • Schedule meetings. Consider scheduling a regular group or one-on-one meeting with employees depending on their needs. A daily or weekly group meeting is a great way to get updates on projects and hear any concerns your team might have. One-on-one touchpoints with employees will allow them to talk to you freely about their needs.

  • Hold office hours. Have a block of time set aside every day or once a week where employees can come to you with questions, ideas or complaints. Office hours are a way for your employees to feel comfortable talking to you in private on a regular basis without having to schedule extra time with you.

  • Ask for feedback. Ask for feedback regarding your role as a supervisor, how the team is functioning and how the team works with other groups. You might consider building this into performance reviews on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. If your employees feel comfortable telling you how you are doing as a manager, they will be more receptive to the feedback you provide them.

Consistently communicating with your employees will make them feel like they are supported and their input is valued.

Related: Common Communication Barriers

4. Provide opportunities for career development

Having a clear path to advance in your position by improving key soft and hard skills in essential for lasting career motivation. If you want to help your employees stay motivated, it is important to provide them the opportunity to grow within the company.

You can provide ongoing career advancement opportunities in several ways. Here are a few examples:

  • Online or in-person training sessions
  • In-house or third-party professional workshops
  • Admission to relevant conferences
  • Development stipend for books or audiobooks
  • List of podcasts, videos and other useful resources
  • Mentorship programs
  • Career shadowing programs
  • Regular performance reviews

If you notice that one of your employees has the potential to move into management, provide additional training that prepares them for management and help them find opportunities within your company.

Clearly communicate all the resources your team has at their disposal to develop their skills and advance their careers. Employees who feel like they have the opportunity to move forward in their careers are typically more motivated.

Read More: Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

5. Give your team freedom

While there are certainly situations that require a hands-on approach, micromanagement typically decreases motivation. Employees who feel like they have no autonomy at work will have little drive to complete their tasks and will often experience burnout.

Empowering your team to complete the tasks required to achieve their goals will provide them with a sense of control over their job. When a person feels like they have the freedom to work the way that they want, they will be more motivated to produce their best work.

Giving your team autonomy will also demonstrate that you trust them to do an excellent job on their own. When employees know that they are trusted, it inspires loyalty and supports motivation to maintain that trust.

Read More: Management Styles: Overview and Examples

6. Be the type of leader people want to follow

Employees who like and respect their manager will be more motivated than others who feel like they cannot trust their supervisor. If you want to inspire your employees to do the best work that they can every day, you need to be the type of leader that people are willing and glad to follow.

Respect is one of the most important aspects of being a good leader. Treat employees the way that you would want to be treated. Always use a respectful tone when you are talking with your employees. If there is a problem that needs to be addressed, do so in private.

You should also prioritize honesty on your team. If there is a lack of transparency in the workplace, motivation is difficult to maintain.

Finally, you should be available and helpful when individuals need support. If an employee is facing an issue that interferes with their motivation and ability to work, they need to know you are there to help them with whatever way they need. When employees know you are there to support them, staying motivated is easier.

Read More: 10 Common Leadership Styles

7. Get feedback from your employees

The simplest solution for finding the best way to motivate your employees is to ask them. Different people are motivated in different ways, so what works for one person may not work for another.

Consider surveying your team to see what motivates them. If you have a larger team, you may not be able to find a way to carry out an individual plan to motivate everyone. In cases like this, try to find a common theme and plan an arrangement that fits the general idea.

You should also be attentive to ways motivation is being suppressed in your workplace. Understanding the issues that are keeping your employees from doing their best will help you prioritize what solutions to explore.

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Tips for motivating employees

There are additional things you can try to motivate your employees depending on your work environment and budget. Here are a few more tips that might help increase your team's drive:

  • Offer incentives like free food. Offering your employees free meals or snacks can be a good way to keep them motivated if you have the budget. Providing lunch on a regular or semi-regular basis can also cut down on commute times if people leave the office in the afternoon.

  • Use flex scheduling. Allowing your employees to customize their work hours instead of relying on the traditional 9-to-5 schedule is a great incentive you might offer for appropriate roles. Some employees may be more productive working four 10-hour days with a three-day weekend instead of working for eight hours per day, five days a week.

    Employees who feel like they have some control over their schedule will likely feel more motivated. This is, of course, not possible for some positions that require attention during regular work schedules (like customer service, for example).

  • Have a “focus” or work-from-home day. Much like flex scheduling, giving your employees the option to work from home allows them some control over how they work. A focus day where an employee works from home can increase their productivity as well.

  • Involve your employees in the management process. Actively involving employees in managing the workplace is another way to motivate them. In some cases, leadership will need to come from the top down, but in others, you can let employees provide their input and make decisions. Employees who feel like their opinion matters in how the workplace runs will be much more motivated to perform their best.

Managers have a wide variety of responsibilities, including keeping their employees motivated. Different workplaces require different motivation techniques, which is why it is important to select a strategy that fits your team. With some planning, you should be able to find an effective way to motivate your employees so that they perform at their best and feel good about coming to work every day.