As a small-business owner, you may be keenly aware that you need to keep your employees motivated and on task. However, you may fall back on the motivational methods previous bosses of yours may have used simply because that's all you know. Once you examine the range of motivational approaches successful businesses use, you can choose the approach that suits your personality, your business and the types of employees you have.

External Motivation

When you offer rewards such as cash bonuses, recognition through plaques and ceremonies, promotions and improved benefits, you are using external motivation. It's hard to argue against the effectiveness of this approach, because everyone who works for you is doing so for the financial reward. Many employees are willing to work harder and more efficiently to earn external rewards such as extra vacation time or even a new job title.


Psychologist Abraham Maslow suggested a hierarchy of internal needs each person has. These include the need for self-esteem, the need to reach one's potential and the need to feel safe and secure. If you offer a workplace environment that satisfies your employees' internal needs, they will be more motivated to come to work each day and to be productive so that they can continue coming to work.


Many employees find satisfaction in being part of a team. They are motivated to support their peers and get support from their peers. Creating teams in your workplace can help employees relate to each other and share common goals. This can increase motivation. Each team should have a leader who is responsible for keeping teams on task and motivating all members to participate fully.

Stakeholder Motivation

When employees feel they have a stake in how well your business does, they may be motivated to help it succeed. For example, when a worker has a strong sense that your business is helping him feed his family and pay his bills as well as offering him the potential to grow, he may bring a strong sense of purpose to work. In addition, employees who are part of the decision-making process may feel they have a responsibility for making those decisions fruitful.