How to Motivate Employees

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Motivated Employees Increase Productivity

Motivated employees are more likely to work harder, perform better, produce more and stick with the company longer than staffers who don’t feel that they have a stake in the organization’s success. What motivates one employee might not necessarily motivate another, however, so an effective manager needs to take into consideration what it takes for their direct reports to feel driven to success.

What is Employee Motivation?

Employees who are motivated feel a sense of value in their work, take pride in their accomplishments and feel connected to the company’s positive outcomes.

Common Motivating Factors

Employees are motivated by different factors. Wise managers evaluate the types of motivators within their workforce and tap into individual touch points.

Common motivators include:

  • Money
  • Recognition and praise
  • Opportunity for advancement
  • Status or job title
  • Work-life balance

Common demotivators include:

  • Fear of failure or job loss
  • Unattainable goals
  • Confusing directives from management
  • Lack of respect from supervisors
  • Feeling work is unimportant

Determining What Works

It can be tricky to find a one-size-fits all approach to motivating employees. Consider surveying staffers about what factors are most important to them and focus on common themes. Use performance reviews to ascertain what individuals are looking for to increase motivation and look for ways to incorporate them into their roles. Concurrently, ask employees what demotivates them, and look for ways to curb behaviors or policies that undermine employee morale.

Motivating Techniques

Once you determine what gets your staffers revved for success, look for ways to capitalize on your findings and subtly encourage staffers to higher levels of performance.

  • Money: Consider profit-sharing, bonuses or incentive programs to encourage employees to step up their games.
  • Praise: Make an effort to recognize employees publicly and in person, for a job well-done.
  • Advancement: Hire from within when possible, and implement a mentoring program designed to help those who want to move up through the ranks to learn the ropes.
  • Flexibility: Staffers who like to work independently via flex-time, and have shown they can produce without constant oversight, should be given the opportunity to work at their own paces.

Motivating in Tough Times

If you have to downsize employees, or if the company is struggling with tough financial times, it can lower morale and decrease productivity. Use these techniques to keep spirits up and staffers motivated:

  • Communicate about what's happening. Sometimes, rumors are worse than the truth.
  • Don’t overwork employees. Over-loading employees with a significantly increased workload can both demotivate them and lower the quality of work.
  • Reward where you can. If you can’t give out holiday bonuses or host your annual holiday party, look for other ways to let employees know you care about them. Allow shorter work days, work-from-home options or find inexpensive perks to replace fancy options.

Ask Them What They Want

Invite employees to be part of internal focus groups or employee committees where they’re invited to share their thoughts about your company, its policies and practices. Ask prompting questions, such as “What would make it easier for you to do your job?” or “What can we do to make you feel appreciated and fulfilled?” Employees will feel their thoughts are being heard, while you’ll get a first-person perspective of what motivates staffers to peak performance.