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17 Tips for How to Motivate Employees Effectively


Motivated employees can improve productivity, work more efficiently and create a more engaging and positive workplace environment. Figuring out how to motivate employees requires a tailored approach based on your team’s needs. Explore methods of team motivation to get the most out of your staff.

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Why is it important to motivate employees?

Motivation affects behavior in all areas of life. At work, being motivated drives employees to fully engage in what they’re doing to achieve the best possible results. Motivated employees are more likely to come to work happy, tackle challenges head on and put forth their best effort, resulting in higher productivity.

Motivation pushes employees to reach company and career goals by making the most of their work opportunities. Motivated employees often expand their skill sets and make better connections with colleagues. This, in turn, can help your team better meet customers’ needs, which can help the company grow and succeed.

Signs that motivation is lacking

How can you tell if motivation is running low around the office? Your team might not tell you they’re feeling unmotivated, but they’ll likely show you. Look for these signs:

  • Higher rates of employee absenteeism
  • Tardiness
  • Lack of effort
  • Lack of engagement in projects or team meetings
  • Withdrawal from coworkers
  • Mood or attitude changes
  • Decreased employee productivity
  • Boredom with or apathy about work

Characteristics of successful motivation techniques

Deciding how to motivate the employees on your team isn’t always easy.Effective motivation techniques share common characteristics, including:

  • People-centered: Effective motivational techniques consider individual differences. This helps you effectively motivate each employee based on what’s rewarding for them.
  • Results-oriented: Successful motivation techniques give employees the tools and opportunities they need to complete their duties, learn new skills and improve performance.
  • Positive: Effective techniques use positive reinforcement, validation and other affirmative techniques.

How to motivate employees

Many motivational techniques can bring out the best in your employees. Figuring out what motivates people to work well allows you to customize your approach to team motivation. Try the following techniques when deciding how to motivate your team.

1. Be transparent

Being transparent about business decisions, operational methods and the company’s vision can create a motivating work environment where employees feel important and valued. It can help them understand how they fit in with the goals. Create an open communication policy that makes your employees feel like they can ask questions and get honest answers.

2. Recognize individual and team achievements

When considering what motivates people to work, remember the importance of recognition.Practice recognizing the achievements of individuals and teams by:

  • Giving direct praise. If someone’s work is exceptional, tell them. People appreciate the acknowledgment, and a few words can inspire better performance.
  • Providing feedback. Evaluate your employees’ work regularly and give them direct feedback.Knowing what they’re doing well and how they can improve provides motivation for a team.
  • Reminding them of their importance. Every employee contributes to your company’s success. Tell employees why their roles are integral.

3. Solicit positive and constructive feedback

Giving your employees a voice lets them know their opinions and suggestions matter. The more team members can share their honest thoughts, the more they might feel like an important element of the team.

Regularly ask employees to provide positive and constructive feedback. When they share, listen closely and respond thoughtfully. Thank them for sharing their thoughts, even if the feedback was negative.

4. Offer a clear path to advancement

Providing a clear career path is another way to motivate an employee. Schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member to learn about their goals and how they’d like to grow with the company. Then, pinpoint ways to help them succeed in their current role and develop the right skills to advance.

5. Offer flexible scheduling

Scheduling flexibility lets employees fulfill their work duties while considering their personal lives. A few ways to offer flexibility include flexible daily working hours (e.g., arrive early and leave early), compressed workweeks or remote work. It’s possible to accommodate special events or unique scheduling needs while keeping productivity high.

By allowing for flexibility in the schedule, you demonstrate that you view an employee as a human being with needs and responsibilities outside of the office. This can help them feel supported and valued while motivating them to perform their job well.

6. Prioritize work-life balance

You want your employees to be productive, but they also need time away from work to avoid burnout. Support work-life balance by encouraging regular vacations. If some employees never take time off, consider mandatory vacations to give them a mental break.

You can also support work-life balance by being accommodating for personal issues. You might let an employee work from home temporarily to take care of a sick child or parent. Giving team members plenty of personal time to grieve after a death in the family or to cope with unexpected life situations also helps.

Encouraging employees to leave work issues at the office is another option. While some industries might require on-call work schedules, many positions don’t require constant connection to work. Avoid expectations of employees answering after-hours emails or calls. This gives them a break from work, so they can recharge and refresh.

7. Support mental health

By promoting mental health at work, you can boost motivation, engagement and work quality. It’s easier for employees to focus on work when they’re in a positive mental space. With a clear mind, they can be more motivated to perform well. Having an employee assistance program gives your staff easy access to counseling and other services.

Focus on creating a healthy work environment that supports mental health. Work on decreasing stress for employees to keep them motivated and positive.

8. Establish trust and autonomy

When you trust your team to fulfill their responsibilities, they’re more likely to be motivated. One way to establish trust is to give them the autonomy to experiment and pursue ideas without constant supervision. This autonomy encourages creativity and indicates you trust them to produce unique and effective solutions.

Trust that you hired the right people with the necessary experience to make strong decisions. Employees might make mistakes, but that creates learning opportunities that can lead to future success.

9. Give employees opportunities to lead

Leadership opportunities give employees additional responsibilities that can motivate them to work at a higher standard. Provide these opportunities by changing who leads project teams or rotating who leads weekly training on new skills or concepts. Paying for an employee to earn industry licensure or certifications is another option.

10. Be a positive force in the workplace

Your attitude impacts your team. Staying positive when faced with barriers may motivate your team to persevere. When you struggle to maintain positivity, talk with your manager or a trusted mentor rather than your team. You can also look for support outside your company by working with a professional coach or counselor who specializes in workplace issues.

11. Set clear goals

As you figure out how to motivate the employees on your team, consider the importance of clear goals. With a clear objective, your employees can plan to achieve their part in the mission. It can help them feel more productive and motivated when they know what you expect. Well-defined objectives reduce confusion and allow your team to complete tasks effectively and correctly.

Include a mix of short-term and long-term goals. Smaller weekly or monthly goals offer quick success and make it easier to adjust the goals if needed. It can also help to get the team involved in setting goals. Their feedback on realistic timelines and how to break down larger goals can enhance their intrinsic motivation.

12. Compensate employees fairly

Review current salaries at your company and compare them to average salaries for those positions in your area. If you’re below average, consider bumping up the pay.

Using salary bands helps you stay consistent when making job offers. Ensure you don’t pay differently based on gender or other personal characteristics.

Expanding your benefits package can also help round out the overall compensation. Review your benefits and how they align with your employees’ needs. Offer additional cost-effective benefits as a motivator.

13. Offer incentives

Professionals get hired for their knowledge and skills. But everybody enjoys an incentive. Offering extra perks can be a big motivator. Some ideas for incentives include:

  • Gym memberships
  • Free lunches
  • Education-related benefits
  • Sales bonuses
  • Extra paid time off
  • Gift cards
  • Personal parking spots

14. Improve work processes

Involving employees in workflow design is a great motivator. It demonstrates that they matter and empowers them to improve their daily work. Improving the workflow can also free employees up for more interesting, higher-value tasks.

To achieve this, get feedback from employees on all aspects of the workflow. Find areas you can improve upon based on that feedback and your observations. As you make changes, monitor the effectiveness and make adjustments as needed.

15. Create a welcoming and fun workspace

An office that’s inviting and fun can keep your staff motivated. Consider creating an open, well-lit and aesthetically pleasing office space where it’s easy for your employees to work, interact with one another and get inspired. Encourage employees to personalize their spaces with objects or decor that motivates them.

17. Get to know your employees

Interacting with your staff beyond work duties can help you figure out what motivates people. The answer can be different for each person, and figuring out the motivators for individual employees allows you to tailor your motivational strategies.

Having a personal connection to employees can also help motivation in general. They’re more likely to work hard for you and want to do well if they feel like you value them and listen to their ideas.

FAQs about what motivates people to work

What is internal vs. external motivation?

When determining how best to motivate employees, consider both internal and external factors. Internal motivators, such as a competitive spirit or a desire for self-improvement, come from within a person. External motivators, such as deadlines for completing a project and praise from a supervisor, come from outside a person.

While you can’t give someone internal motivation, you can create conditions to cultivate it by maintaining workplace morale and supporting a work-life balance. After all, employees may have difficulty tapping into their internal drives if they’re burned out, stressed or unhappy.

What skills are beneficial when motivating employees?

As a supervisor or manager, strengthening certain skills can aid in motivating employees. Active listening skills are important for helping team members feel heard and gaining insights about their goals, thoughts and feelings. Observation skills are important for spotting signs of poor morale in your team, as is the ability to empathize with others. Problem-solving skills can be beneficial in developing plans to address workplace issues that may be demotivating employees.

What are the components of motivation?

There are three components of motivation: activation, persistence and intensity. Activation is when a person decides to do something. As a manager, you can activate a person’s motivation by giving them a new responsibility, a task to complete or a goal to work toward. The next component is persistence, continuing to carry out an action in the face of obstacles. You can encourage persistence in employees by helping them talk through problems, reassuring them when they face setbacks and asking how you can best support them. The final component, intensity, is the mental and physical energy used to pursue a goal. Praise can be a powerful way to encourage intensity.

Can you apply a singular motivational method to motivate your entire team?

Not everyone is inspired or motivated by the same incentives or workplace interactions. Some employees might be money-driven and respond well to incentive programs, while others might find a clean and vibrant workplace to be their primary motivator.

Some members of your team might rely on recognition and praise to complete their job well, while others might be motivated by your acknowledgment and support for their life beyond the office. Observe the types of motivators that your employees best respond to and use multiple motivation methods to reach more people.

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