How to Motivate Your Employees in Ten Steps

Motivating your employees is imperative to the success of your company. You cannot have a thriving business when your workers perform work slowly, come in late and behave poorly. Often this type of behavior is the result of a lack of motivation or a feeling of being unappreciated. Managers and business owners alike benefit from giving workers reasons to perform well. Motivating factors include verbal acknowledgement, monetary rewards, increases in responsibility and help in achieving career goals.

Ask your employees what they want and listen. Some people are motivated by the prospect of more money, but for others, it's the possibility of more time off. Still others want more challenging work and more responsibility. Each person has his own reasons to feel motivated. The fact that you take the time to listen to your employees is a big motivator for employees who may have previously felt unappreciated.

Create an action plan. After talking and listening to your workers, sit down with them and map out a plan for success. Engage in one-on-one conversation with each member of your team, giving each person a clear goal and performance expectation. At work, most people prefer clear goals, rather than generalities. If your employee isn't clear about your expectations, he may spend more time wondering what you want rather than doing it.

Lead by example. If your company has a strong work ethic, but you always go home early, you cannot expect your employees to feel motivated. If you expect quality and dedication from your workers, show them how it's done. A good leader understands that actions are more important than words, and therefore, what you do has stronger motivational influence than your words.

Watch your employees for signs to what really motivates them. A good manager pays attention to unspoken cues his employees give. What one says motivates him might actually be different than how he acts. This isn't because he's lied. Rather, it could be the result of a mistake in calculating what he really wanted. For example, the person who said he wanted to work on a prestigious project realizes he doesn't enjoy the work as much as he thought he would. In this case, talk to the employee again to find out how you two can work together to achieve mutual goals.

Give the appropriate amount of encouragement to each of your team members. No one likes to work without feeling as if someone appreciates her hard work. While some enjoy public praise, others prefer a more quiet approach to praise. A quick "good job" or "thanks for your hard work" are all many employees need to feel motivated to please the boss. If you believe one employee has done a consistently good job, consider leaving a thank-you card on his desk or in a private meeting.

Delegate tasks. This shows you have faith in your team to get the job done. Delegating to your team members encourages them to come up with new ways to solve problems, create more efficient procedures and develop new products. Set a clear goal for these tasks and give them ownership of it. Employees who enjoy increased responsibility will be motivated to perform at their best.

Encourage your employees to increase their knowledge. When you show a genuine interest in your team members' career goals, they will be more likely to work harder for you. Give your employees the chance to increase their knowledge and skills, and provide them with the connections they need to make their dreams a reality. As a result of your interest in their long-term goals, your employees might stay with the company longer, working up the ranks. This benefits you and the company in that you have a more knowledgeable workforce familiar with the inner workings of your particular business.

Keep your team members' skills and training updated. New technology emerges almost daily, and the competitive business environment many professionals find themselves in requires an ever-increasing knowledge of the latest upgrades. Whether your work involves extracting and storing electronic data, or if you're involved in sales, keep abreast of relevant updates new products that could help streamline your business practices. Employees who use old and outdated equipment may feel as though the company does not care enough about them to invest in high-quality tools.

Resolve conflicts quickly and fairly between employees. While this does not seem like an obvious motivational factor, it is. A decisive and fair resolution to office conflicts helps motivate team members by showing them you take their needs seriously. A perceived troublemaker could just as likely be a concerned employee bringing attention to unsafe or unethical business practices by his coworkers. Refrain from making snap judgments. Listen to the complaints and issues and investigate the problem before making your decision. Workers who realize the boss is fair are more likely to feel motivated to perform well.

Find out how to get your people moving. Frank McNair, author of "The Golden Rule for Managers," says you cannot motivate "stick people" with carrots. This metaphor brings to light a core difference between two types of people: those who are motivated by rewards, and those who are motivated by fear. If some members of your team, after having received positive rewards and praise, are still not working to their greatest capacity, fire one to motivate the others. Terminating an employee in this way should be a last resort after all other efforts have failed.


  • Not everyone is the same. The thing that motivates one person may completely turn off others. Older workers are motivated less by pay increases and more by increased time off. Younger workers might be willing to sacrifice time off for increased pay. Be attentive to your employee's cues and actions and formulate a game plan based on your team's particular demographics.


  • Never fire an employee without first giving a written warning or reason. Never discuss the terminated employee in front of your team, as this may be perceived as gossip.