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What Motivates People at Work: 14 Methods to Motivate Your Team

Everyone has days when they feel unmotivated, but keeping workplace motivation high is essential for productivity. To motivate your company, department or project team, you might need to test out different things that motivate people to find the things that work. By understanding how to motivate your team members, you can cultivate an inspiring and driven environment for your employees and set achievable company goals.


It’s important to understand the significance of instilling motivators within your workplace. There are several motivational methods you can put into practice within your workplace to help motivate your team.


Related: How to Motivate Your Employees


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What motivates people to work?

It’s not always clear what motivates people to work. People are motivated in their professional lives by certain factors, including money, recognition, power, passion and meaning. These factors can have a major influence on productivity, and an employee might rely on one or more of these areas to foster a passion for their work.


Related: Employee Satisfaction Surveys: What They Are and Why They’re Important for Your Business


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. Here are some signs that you need to work on improving workplace motivation:


  • Higher rates of employee absenteeism
  • Employees showing up late or getting a slow start to the day
  • Only doing the bare minimum required for the job
  • Not contributing to project ideas or team meetings
  • Withdrawing from coworkers
  • Mood or attitude changes
  • Decreased employee productivity
  • Acting bored or not caring about their work

14 methods to motivate your team

Strategies to motivate your team can relate to money, recognition and meaning that can aid in their personal fulfillment and their desire to contribute to the company’s success. Knowing what motivates people to work in your office can help you tailor the options. Revive or cultivate team motivation in your office with these methods:


1. Establish employee incentive programs

Incentive programs offer an external reward for productivity, work quality or other factors. These could include monthly bonuses for the employee with the highest sales, extra time off for the entire department for reaching specific goals or giving commissions to whoever generates the most traffic through their content.


2. Provide leadership and growth opportunities

Providing opportunities for leadership is a great way to motivate your employees. Knowing that they have a way to advance to a higher position with higher pay can motivate employees to work harder in their current positions. It also gives them a reason to stay with your company.


Opportunities for leadership and growth can include paying for an employee to earn industry licensure or certifications, offering an employee a promotional position or giving your employees a specific project to see to completion.


3. Create a welcoming and fun workspace

An office that’s inviting and fun can keep your staff motivated. Coming into a drab, boring workspace drains creativity and leaves people feeling blah. 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. 


4. Give your employees continual positive feedback

Acknowledge the hard work and talent of each team member to keep them motivated. The recognition shows your employees that you noticed their efforts and encourages them to do more of the same. If you have correctional feedback, end the meeting on a positive note to show that you also notice the employee’s efforts.


By taking the time to acknowledge the daily efforts of your employees, you can help them feel valued and inspire them to continue fulfilling their job duties.


5. Be okay with failure

If you want your employees to take risks and be creative, you need to be okay with failure. If you criticize or publicly blast your employees’ failures, they’re going to lose the motivation to try something new. Accept that taking risks comes with some failure. Use it as an opportunity to learn and improve next time, so employees feel comfortable taking risks in the future.


6. Cater to flexible work schedules

Flexibility can be a motivating factor for many employees. It lets them fulfill their work duties while also taking their personal lives into consideration. Allow employees to work from home if possible, and set their work hours within reason. Give employees the option to leave early or come in late for doctor’s appointments, family commitments and other important events in their personal lives.


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


7. Push work-life balance

You want your employees to be productive, but overworking themselves or never taking vacation time can quickly lead to burnout. Support work-life balance in the workplace by encouraging regular vacations. If some employees never take time off, consider forced vacations to give them a mental break. 


You can also support work-life balance by being accommodating when personal issues interfere with work. You might let an employee work from home temporarily to take care of a sick child or parent. Giving employees plenty of personal time for a death in the family or other situations can also help.


8. Support mental health

Employees who feel off mentally often aren’t motivated at work. By promoting mental health at work, you can boost motivation, engagement and work quality. Having an employee assistance program that gives your staff easy access to counseling and other services is a good start.


Focus on creating a healthy work environment that supports mental health. Work on decreasing stress for employees, which can hurt mental health and decrease motivation.


9. Compensate employees fairly

Money shouldn’t be the only motivator for workers, but being compensated fairly definitely helps push your employees. Review your current salaries and compare them to the average salaries for each position in your area. If you’re well below the average, consider bumping up the pay.


Using salary bands for your positions helps you stay consistent when making job offers. Ensure you don’t pay differently based on gender, which can demotivate employees who are paid unfairly because of their gender.


Expanding your benefits package can also help round out the overall compensation. Review the benefits you offer and how they align with your employees’ needs. Offer additional benefits that are cost-effective to help motivate your employees.


10. Have clear objectives

With a clear objective, your employees can make a plan to achieve their part in the mission. For many people, having a goal and a checklist of things to get there is motivating. If employees don’t know what you want or have no clue about the overall goals, they might not feel motivated to do their work.


It can be extremely demotivating to start a project only to find out the employer had something different in mind. Unclear objectives leave employees confused and often create more work, which hurts motivation.


11. Be transparent

Being transparent about business decisions and operational methods can create a motivating work environment. If you don’t share information with your employees, they’ll draw conclusions that are often false. This can lead to rumors and gossip that can create a negative environment. 


Keep employees informed about what’s happening with your business, and bring them in on your objectives to get their buy-in. Create an open communication policy that makes your employees feel like they can ask questions and get honest answers about the company’s direction.


12. Give employees ownership in their work

Micromanaging your team is a quick way to kill motivation. Having your manager look over your shoulder and question everything you do can make you feel like there’s no point in working hard. It saps all creativity from the work.


Trust that you hired the right people and that they have the necessary experience to make strong decisions. Give employees ownership over their assigned duties to empower them. 


13. 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.


14. Keep competition friendly

Some competition in the workplace can motivate employees. Many people like the idea of winning or coming out on top. However, workplace competition can quickly cross the line. When competition becomes too serious, employees might backstab each other, which can cause friction on teams. Other people might be demotivated by intense competition because they’d rather stay on the sidelines.


FAQs about motivation in the workplace 

Here are some frequently asked questions about motivation in the workplace.


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.


What is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and which is more beneficial in the workplace?

Extrinsic motivation includes incentives, such as extra vacation days or monetary bonuses, commission or pay raises. Intrinsic value is the sense of meaning, happiness or pride that results from completing a job well. More specifically, intrinsic motivation is related to positive feedback and feeling understood and valued.


Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors can motivate people, but intrinsic motivation is more likely to yield long-lasting inspiration and passion for a job. One of the most influential motivators is feelings of happiness and worth related to work. Extrinsic motivators can still be very helpful in creating a sense of meaning and an incentive for hard work, but intrinsic motivators are what really motivate your team.


What are the three components that make up intrinsic motivation?

The three components of a person’s intrinsic motivation are relatedness, competence and autonomy. Relatedness refers to an individual’s ability to connect with and feel connected to other people. Competence refers to the amount of experience or skills that an individual can apply to a situation, and autonomy is the degree to which an individual feels like they’re in control of their daily life and future.


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