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“How to motivate employees” is the most common query typed into Google by managers and HR professionals, attracting over 8,100 searches per month. This shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that staff motivation is a universal problem faced by all companies and does not have a single solution. There are a lot of different ideas that managers can employ to boost motivation. However, the question of which methods should actually be implemented must ultimately be determined by the manager with regard to their circumstances.

To get you started, we have put together a list of the 10 of the most effective strategies to increase employee motivation in the workplace:

1. Focus on employee engagement

In our view, creating a culture where employees are engaged is one of the most effective methods of increasing employee motivation. Before we jump into some employee engagement ideas, let’s quickly define what an “engaged employee” is. There are a number of different definitions in HR literature, but at its core, an engaged employee is someone who understands and genuinely cares about the objectives of the company and is willing to go beyond their primary responsibilities to ensure that the company achieves those objectives.

Points 2 – 5 below are some of the most fundamental ingredients for creating a culture of engagement and assisting a company with effective strategies on how to motivate employees.

2. Managers (and not just HR) must prioritize employee engagement

Creating a culture of engagement is often a task that is delegated to HR. However, it is important that the managers responsible for employees understand the importance of and prioritize employee engagement. A study by Netsurvey revealed that 87% of employees with high engagement gave their managers strong scores. Managers must lead the charge in building a culture of engaged employees.

3. Create an open dialogue with your employees

Create an open team dialogue where your employees understand business objectives and strategy, not just as they relate to the immediate team but also in a global sense. Take on feedback, involve them in decision-making and encourage new ideas and creativity. Show them that they can have an impact on the team and the company and that they are a vital part of its success.

4. Recognition from management

Everyone likes to be congratulated and recognized for a job well done. Particularly when employees go above and beyond to achieve the objectives of the company, recognition is critical. When recognition is not forthcoming, the first thought of many employees is “what’s the point?” It’s simple to see here the immediate drop in motivation that will soon follow if the trend is continued.

5. Recognition from peers

While recognition from management is absolutely critical, unfortunately, it is not scalable. Genuine opportunities to give recognition are often not all that frequent, and if given too often, recognition can be subject to the law of diminishing returns and be perceived as disingenuous.

Implementing a peer recognition program is a very simple solution for this problem. It allows for more frequent moments of genuine and meaningful recognition which (best of all), is public and can be seen by the whole team and management. Creating a conversation of recognition can be an extremely powerful strategy for creating engaged employees.

6. That promotion…

The prospect of a promotion is a huge motivator to many employees. However, it is often something which is not utilized by management to its full potential. Turn this into a primary motivating factor by talking about it openly during performance reviews and being transparent and giving constant feedback throughout the year. While these types of conversations can be difficult, if you are not letting your ambitious employees know when they are or are not meeting expectations of their career trajectory you are missing out on employing a significant motivational driver.

7. Extrinsic rewards

A popular theme in management commentary is that extrinsic rewards diminish intrinsic motivation to the extent that they can be counterproductive. This idea has become so widespread that it is often taken as gospel by many managers and HR professionals. Extrinsic rewards for excellent performance can symbolise the significance of achievements, and the competence and importance of the individual which, in turn, increases intrinsic motivation.

However, the issue is certainly not black and white. Quite simply, different things work for different companies. Often the question is not whether to implement a rewards program, but what are the appropriate triggers to link such rewards to in order to achieve both an extrinsic and intrinsic motivational boost.

8. New challenges and responsibilities

In an ideal world, all employees should find their jobs interesting and fulfilling. While this cannot always be the case, you do your best to ensure that they are regularly challenged, working on new projects, and learning new skills and knowledge.

Employees who are never challenged, have little responsibility, and are confronted with repetitive tasks quickly lose motivation. Conversely, by promoting and facilitating new work, skills, cross-team/departmental experience, you can create employees who are not only more engaged but who are also more valuable to you in the long term.

9. Avoid burn out

Even the most motivated employees can be overworked. Unfortunately, it is often the most ambitious and capable employees who are overworked. Further, they will often be the least likely to tell you that they need a break.

Be aware of workloads and create an open dialogue where employees are not judged or looked down upon for asking for help. Don’t burn out and lose your most valuable employees.

10. Team activities

Give your team opportunities to relax and get to know each other in a non-work related context. A team which is close and actually cares about each other will go that extra mile to accomplish tasks together. A team is so much more valuable than a group of individuals.

Finally, take the extra step and ask your employees whether they are happy and if they are satisfied at work. A manager that shows they genuinely care for the well-being and happiness of their staff will inspire the best in them.

Motivating employees is one of the single most challenging tasks faced by HR professionals and managers today. It is not something that happens overnight or can be fixed by a single solution or product. While many of the ideas for employee motivation listed above can be employed right now, it’s only by practising them daily that you’ll create a culture of engagement and motivation.

WooBoard is an employee recognition platform which facilitates daily recognition and engagement. It touches on many of the key factors discussed in the paragraphs above, and provides an effective start to begin addressing the question on how to motivate employees.
Go to WooBoard.com
photo credit: JD Hancock cc

2 thoughts on “How to Motivate Employees: 10 Actionable Ideas

  1. Henry Lyons says:

    Great article – a timely reminder that we should always be working to engage and motivate our teams.

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