Employee motivation is a crucial aspect of any successful business. When employees are demotivated, they are less productive, there are fewer ideas and innovations, and there is higher turnover.
When employees feel engaged and motivated, the opposite is true.
How do you help your employees stay motivated?
In this post, we will explore powerful strategies for employee motivation and keeping your team engaged.
Whether you’re a manager, business owner, or HR professional, this post is for you. So, read on to discover how to keep your employees motivated and engaged and take your business to the next level.
It’s important to note that these strategies are not standalone. They intertwine with one another. With many of them, if you do some but not others, you will be making progress, but employee motivation will still hurt.
Table of Contents
1. Create a safe environment for your employees
What is a safe environment?
A safe environment is one where employees know their leadership cares for them, they trust their leadership, and they can move forward in their work without fear that people are out to “get them” when they make a mistake.
A safe environment is one where an employee feels comfortable disagreeing with ideas, saying “I made a mistake” or “I don’t know how to do this”, speaking up about problems, and innovating and taking risks.
The mentality is about supporting and helping employees, not finding mistakes. In fact, mistakes are encouraged, because it’s from mistakes that we learn and mistakes mean people are innovating and taking risks to improve productivity, experimenting with ideas, and moving the company forward.
An unsafe environment is where employees fear speaking up, feel like they always have to look over their shoulders, do what’s easy so they won’t make mistakes, and they often keep their heads down just to get through the day. They don’t trust their leaders.
When it’s unsafe, leadership stays unaware of problems and issues, because employees fear speaking up.
One of the best strategies for employee motivation is to be the person they can trust and create an environment that is safe.
2. Provide meaningful work (Give purpose to what they do)
One of the core drivers of human motivation is purpose. As humans, we like to see a purpose in what we do.
Give purpose to their work. Help them see how what they do affects the bigger picture. Help them see how it helps the company reach its mission.
Help them see the results of what they do. Provide ways to hear how what they do impacts people’s lives.
Purpose is a powerful motivator.
3. Provide autonomy in their work
Another core of employee motivation is autonomy. We like to feel we have control over aspects of our lives.
If you feel someone is micromanaging you, that takes away your autonomy in that work. When you do that to others, it lowers motivation.
When delegating projects and tasks, focus on the outcome, not the process, the what, not the how. Set clear expectations of what it needs to look like and what the end result should be, but release them to control how they get there.
What is important is the end result, not that they do it exactly the way you think it should be done.
4. Help them grow (provide pathways to mastery)
Another core of employee motivation is growth. We like to grow, master skills, and get better at what we do.
When we do the same humdrum tasks that don’t challenge us at all, our motivation for them will be small.
While there are times your employees (and you) will have to do those tasks, try to provide tasks that also give the right amount of challenge that will help them up their game.
Provide opportunities through their work, resources, and training to grow in their job, their career, and their skills.
5. Provide connectedness
People want to feel connected to others and be part together of something big. Help your people feel connected to one another as a team moving together toward the higher mission of your organization.
If your employees feel isolated and alone or rejected from the group, their motivation is going to hurt.
6. Provide clear expectations
Make sure people have clarity about their job expectations, what they should be doing, and the results they should be getting.
Lack of clarity creates confusion, hurts communication, causes frustration, and can be a negative to employee motivation.
Make sure every employee clearly knows what is expected of them and that any new project or task has clear expectations as well (expectations being the outcome, goal, and the results that should happen – not micromanaging on exactly how to do it).
7. Provide consistent feedback
The frequency of feedback needed (or desired) can vary from person to person, but you should be consistent in your feedback.
Employees want to know how well they are doing, where they stand, and (generally) how they can improve. This can encourage them in their work and challenge them.
When you inconsistently (or never) give feedback, employees don’t know where they stand or how they are doing, and, with that uncertainty, they are likely to be less motivated to do their work.
8. Give frequent, genuine appreciation
According to one study, 80% of employees are motivated to work harder when given appreciation by their boss, and over 50% said they would stay longer because of appreciation.
Appreciation is important to employee motivation. It helps people feel validated, important, cared for, appreciated, noticed, and it motivated people to work harder.
When you don’t show appreciation, people feel unappreciated, unnoticed, and possibly even feel taken advantage of, and they are more likely to leave.
Make sure to show frequent appreciation to your team. Be specific. Tell them thank you for their hard work. And be genuine about it. People can often spot it when it’s fake.
9. Make their voice valuable (and help them feel heard)
One great demotivator in workplaces is that they feel their voice doesn’t matter. Any idea, suggestion, complaint, or anything, they share is ignored.
Sometimes it’s arrogance. Sometimes leaders just think they know better. Sometimes leadership looks down on the “workers” and won’t even consider anything they say.
Whatever the reason, that’s a losing proposition in multiple ways.
Not only do you miss out on great ideas that can improve efficiency, quality, productivity, and profits, you demotivate your employees, which means you get even less.
Listen to them. Truly listen. Implement ideas and suggestions. Gather ideas and input about problems or situations.
Make your team feel heard, and not only will higher motivation be a reward, but you’ll likely gather ideas and suggestions, and perspectives that could benefit you greatly.
10. Encouraging employee involvement
Similarly, involve employees in the decision-making process when possible and keep them in the know of what’s going on. Even when you don’t follow their viewpoint, by taking the time to care and listen, they will be more motivated to follow the direction chosen.
Help give them ownership in what they do. The more ownership they feel in their job, the more initiative and motivation they will have.
11. Provide decision-making power to do their jobs effectively
Too often, decision-making power is far from those with the most information. The people farthest from the problem and facts are the ones that make the decision, and often (way too often), it’s more harmful than helpful.
It’s also very frustrating having to get permission or go to a boss or manager for everything. It shows distrust in the employee. This, of course, demotivates.
As much as possible, give decision-making power to your employees to deal with the problems and issues they face throughout their job. Set clear goals, expectations, and parameters (and whatever training they need), but then release them to make decisions and do their job.
This not only makes them more productive (and if they are customer-facing, the customers are happier), it builds more trust and employee motivation as well.
12. Create a positive work environment
Watch the culture of your company.
If it is negative, gossipy, and full of strife, silos, and backbiting, the morale and employee motivation will be lower. Even your positive-minded employees will be negatively affected by the negative culture.
Work hard to make it a positive, collaborative, culture. (A lot of this comes from making it safe, as mentioned above). Not allowing negativity (for the sake of negativity, you want people to let you know about problems) and gossip is a great step as well.
Create a vision or goal that people can unify around.
Work on building a great culture, and you will benefit from greater motivated employees."Work on building a great culture, and you will benefit from greater motivated employees." ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet
13. Provide opportunities to chase innovations and new ideas
One way to increase not only employee motivation but the ideas for new products or methods to save money and increase productivity is to provide opportunities for employees to innovate and try new ideas.
Some companies allow a certain number of hours on a “pet” project. Some set aside a day or two every so often. Some just promote for employees to try new ideas as they go along and see how they work.
Give your employees autonomy and ways to chase areas of interest that might not only challenge them but can also boost company productivity, etc.
14. Be consistent
Be consistent in what you say and how you act. If you treat people differently (in the wrong ways, such as unmerited favors) or you change one day to the next or you change directions day to day, you are going to frustrate and demotivate your people.
It’s not that you can never change direction or that you will never have a bad day, but you want to do your best to be consistent when you can.
15. Be there to help and support employees when they need it
Be there for your employees. If they need help, support, whatever, give it.
Dave Ramsey told a story where an employee’s family member died (or was injured or such) while they were away, and Ramsey chartered a plane to get them back home.
That built so much loyalty and motivation from that employee (and likely from others who saw it).
There are many other examples of companies and teams going above and beyond for their employees in times of need or in unexpected ways, and the loyalty it builds is usually worth every penny and minute spent.
And it doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. Finding ways that you are able to support and care for your employees can go a long way.
16. Help them reach their goals
When you can show how their work for their organization aligns with their personal goals and you work to help them achieve their personal goals, you build loyalty and employee motivation.
17. Unify them around a compelling vision/goal
Create a powerful goal that your team can unite around. Strong visions and goals unite, tear down silos, and motivate people to work hard, take the initiative, and go above and beyond.
18. Have a company of great leaders
If your company is full of toxic or negative leaders, your company is going to suffer.
If those “leaders” are unwilling to learn and grow, don’t punish your team by holding on to them. You will be destroying employee motivation. Let them go and hire and grow new, great leaders.
Constantly be growing and developing your current leaders and new and future leaders. The better the leadership throughout your organization, the higher the morale and motivation of your employees.
One of the biggest (if not the biggest) reasons people leave is their boss/manager/leader. Don’t let that happen to you.
19. Communicate effectively
Frequent, open, and consistent communication builds trust. When communication is slow or lacking, or when people feel like leadership is hiding something, that can build distrust.
When distrust builds, motivation lowers.
However, not only does open and frequent communication build trust, but it also saves frustration, time, and money.
When instructions and expectations are unclear, tasks and projects have to be redone, people’s time is wasted, and if that happens frequently, motivation lowers.
20. Start people well
One of the big mistakes employers make is when employees start new at their company. When someone is new, they are often a little nervous but also excited, pumped, and motivated.
Many businesses kill that in their onboarding process.
Sometimes equipment isn’t ready (no computer, for example) or email, etc. isn’t set up, or they get no positive interaction with their team. Often the first thing they do is talk to HR about all the policies and rules.
Don’t do that. Start them well. Have everything ready. Have people welcome them. Have their leader/team take them to lunch. Have someone who works with them throughout the first day giving introductions and tours, etc.
HR may have to happen, but don’t kill the first moments or day with it. Make the start pleasurable and keep that initial motivation high.
First impressions are important.
21. Kill the Bureaucracy
One of the biggest killers of employee motivation is bureaucracy. Having to go through painful, pointless processes just to get something done will demotivate almost anyone. Rules for the sake of rules (or punishing everyone because one person did something bad at some point somewhere) pushes people to care less.
Axe as much bureaucracy out of your company as you can. Any rules you have should help your employees do their job, not hinder them.
Make doing their job enjoyable and easy. Remove as much hassle as you can.
Some Strategies that Don’t Work Well for Employee Motivation
Fear-based management – using fear to “motivate” and control employees doesn’t work. It’s a negative environment of distrust that you don’t want.
Micromanagement – that demotivates instead of motivates.
Threats – threatening people create fears and distrust, not loyalty and motivation.
External carrots (including money) – trying to entice people with money or other treats could temporarily give a “boost”, but these motivational strategies are ineffective in the long term. Once people are paid fairly and well, money isn’t much of a motivator, and when you try to use it, it makes things more transactional, which you don’t want. Money also doesn’t fix the underlying issues that demotivate people.
Ping-pong tables, free food, etc. – they look nice and may get people to want to come to a company, but they don’t keep employees engaged and motivated. It doesn’t solve the underlying issues.
Final Thoughts on Strategies for Employee Motivation
If you want to create a productive workforce, follow the strategies listed above. Create a safe culture of trust, listen to your people, communicate well, and lead well.
You may not be able to implement everything at once but pick one to fix and start. Piece by piece you can build a more motivated, loyal team, and workforce.
Now to you: How has this helped you? Do you have any other strategies that we missed? What do you think is most important? Let us know in the comments below!
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