What Is Employee Motivation?
Before we dive into the strategies that will increase motivation in the workplace, we need to understand what motivation is.
Motivation gets us to do things that drive our goals and life experiences forward. Many of us are driven by some force, person, or thing to do we do, including our work. There are two types of motivation that drive behavior: intrinsic and extrinsic.
When an employee is intrinsically motivated, they are doing something because of "its inherent satisfaction rather than for some separable consequence."
For example, an employee may love hosting sales calls because they enjoy the feeling they get when communicating with a customer.
On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is all about consequences and outcomes. For example, an engineer might write lines of code because:
- They're afraid they might get demoted if the next project doesn't ship on time.
- Shipping the following amount of code gets them closer to the promotion they've been working for.
Extrinsic motivation comes in various forms, although sticking with positive extrinsic motivators is the best way to build your workforce.
What Should Companies Focus On?
We will be sharing 22 strategies that mostly fall into the extrinsic motivation category. It's difficult (if not impossible) to change how people are intrinsically motivated. You can't change the internal dialogue or feeling that an employee has when doing something. However, you can offer perks/incentives, ensure employees have what they need, and create a company culture that motivates employees.
Why Do Companies Need To Increase Motivation In The Workplace?
The effects of a lack of motivation can have a ripple effect throughout your entire organization. If people aren't motivated to follow your company's mission and vision, you will lose the employees who make your organization a fantastic place to work.
If you consider the employees who have left your company in the last year, you could probably tell when they lost their motivation to work for your organization. Catching employees before they become demotivated and unhappy can make a world of difference.
22 Strategies To Help You Increase Motivation At Work
Are you ready to make employee motivation a significant part of your employee experience? Here are the strategies you need to make it happen:
1. Adjust Expectations Around Workplace Productivity
If you want to improve workplace motivation, it's essential to start with your view of employee productivity. Many companies who say their employees aren't motivated have an issue with expectations. You cannot expect that your employees will be:
- Productive from 9-5.
- Just as passionate as you are.
- Able to leave worries at the door.
- Motivated by the same things as you.
- Productive in the same way as you.
Each of your employees is unique, which will be evident as you look at workplace productivity. Some of your employees will consistently craft great work while others enjoy work sprints. Adjusting expectations enables you to see past busy work and into value work.
2. Make Sure Basic Personal Needs Are Taken Care Of First
One of the simplest psychological explanations of motivation is Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs. This principle explains that people need specific needs taken care of before wrapping their minds around motivation and self-actualization.
Self-actualization is where the experiences we commonly associate with motivated employees live. It's where employees can reach their full potential, seek personal growth, and work as their best selves.
So, what are employees doing leading up to fulfilling their potential?
Employees are working on:
- Physiological needs: Needs like breathing air, getting sleep, being warm, and having something to drink/eat.
- Safety needs: Employees want to feel safe in their environment, create predictability in their lives, and have financial and physical wellbeing, for instance.
- Love/belonging needs: Next, people need to feel like they belong to a group or collective. Building friendships and other relationships give your employees interpersonal connections.
- Esteem needs: Next is esteem, where employees have a sense of self-worth and understand how they positively contribute to the world around them.
If you want employees to reach the final level of self-actualization at work, make sure these four steps are met first.
3. Create A Mission And Values That Aligns With Your Staff
Do your values need a significant upgrade? Employees follow missions and values that excite and engage them.
First, you'll want to consider how you might change your mission. What mission will make employees excited to get up every day and work at your company?
"In one of my companies, the mission is to reimagine the museum experience for adults, which is more motivating than helping tourists have a great time at museums or similar," explains Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding.
Next, you'll want to reexamine your values. Can you go beyond typical one-word values that aren't motivating or helpful for your employees?
"Company core values like passion and service are commonplace and somewhat stagnant," Michael Alexis continues, "Instead, our team resonates with values like Get Sh*t Done [Right] and Operate at Level 10 Integrity."
4. Utilize Peer Recognition, So More Employees Get Recognition For Their Hard Work
At Nectar, we value the importance of peer recognition at work. Managers cannot see everything, so peer recognition allows more work to be praised. Utilizing peer recognition software like Nectar can make recognition a part of your company's culture.
Do you want to learn more about workplace recognition? Check out our article about the different types of employee recognition.
5. Survey Your Team Members Regularly And Follow-Up On Their Input
Do you listen to your employees when they share something they dislike? Better yet, do you act on the employee input and make positive changes at work? Employees need to know that management hears their concerns and addresses their problems.
You can utilize surveys like Gallup's Q12 survey to measure employee engagement quarterly and see where you need improvement.
Also, take informal feedback seriously. For example, if an employee shares their thoughts in a one-on-one meeting, follow through with a solution to their problems.
Here are some more tips to help you improve employee engagement survey completion rates.
6. Create SMART Goals For Employees
The next strategy to increase employee motivation is creating well-defined goals that employees can track and get excited about.
SMART goals are:
When all these elements are present in the goals your team sets, it's easy to know when you've reached a goal and why it's crucial.
If you want to further improve your goals, tie SMART goals to company goals.
"The best leaders (and the best companies) tap into employee's individual sources of motivation," shares Scribe CEO Jennifer Smith. Her favorite question to ask potential hires is, "What does success look like for you personally in 1, 5, or 7 years? What do you want to do/learn/achieve?"
Armed with this information, Jennifer can have an ongoing conversation with employees to ensure that their personal and organizational goals align.
7. Utilize Delegation To Increase Employee Satisfaction And Productivity
Employees can't do everything on their own, especially if you have a small team. As a result, many companies have begun outsourcing work to freelancers or assistants to help their teams become more satisfied, efficient, and effective.
"By delegating tasks and making sure that no one is being overworked, everyone is able to be more motivated," shares Akhila Nagabandi, Head of HR for Pearl Lemon.
When you offer your team support for their projects, you can better hold employees accountable for their outcomes. If you are an HR leader, make sure everyone knows about the tools and resources they have at their disposal to get work done.
8. Put Company Focus On Quality Work Over Quantity Work
The quantity of work is impactful, but it's not sustainable for your employees. Your organization should focus more on the quality of work if it leads to the same results for your organization.
One way to invest in quality work is by giving employees a flexible work environment. For example, flexible work like working from home or four days instead of five can significantly impact work.
"At MRL Consulting Group, we adopted a four-day work week in 2019. This has proven to be a step in the right direction as to date," explains MRL Consulting Group CEO David Stone, "We have seen a 25% increase in productivity & revenue across the offices. Short-term absenteeism has reduced by 40%. 95% of employees say they feel more rested after the 3-day weekend, and 90% of staff say their mental health feels more balanced."
9. Invest In The Personal And Professional Development Of Your Team Members
Is your company helping your employees improve personally or professionally? Employees are motivated when they feel like they are getting better in their personal lives or at work. Try creating a career development program or providing a financial benefit that people can use to enroll in courses or read exciting books. By spending time to develop as an employee, your team will be able to produce higher quality work.
"It is not just a matter of having a training budget available; continuous training is one of our values, and an ethos of continuous training is embedded in our company culture," comments Wendy Makinson, HR manager for Joloda Hydraroll, "Training goals are identified as part of annual reviews, and staff are encouraged to take full advantage of the development opportunities available."
10. Create An Employee Mentorship Program
"We've seen company after company implement formal mentorship programs to drive employee engagement and get their teams excited about the growth opportunities internally," shares Matthew Reeves, CEO of Together.
If you want to fill senior positions soon, start your employee mentorship program as quickly as possible.
11. Actively Encourage Teamwork Over Individualism
Competing with other employees at your company doesn't always lead to great work. Individualistic organizations can often spend more time fighting over scarce company resources versus working together to solve an issue.
"When employees are accountable to each other and working toward a common goal, they don't want to want to let the rest of the team down," states Mark Daoust, CEO of Quiet Light, "The collaborative nature of teamwork increases motivation by encouraging each employee to perform their own part quickly, efficiently and produce higher quality work."
12. Provide Relevant And Timely Feedback For Employees
Providing relevant and timely feedback to your employees can be a fantastic way to increase motivation in the workplace.
"Giving regular constructive feedback can be crucial to keeping your team on track and making sure they are working the way you want," comments Ouriel Lemmel, CEO and founder of WinIt.
Employees need to hear your feedback on their work frequently to make better choices and be better workers. Make sure that you take time every day to provide feedback as a leader. Your words carry weight for your team members.
13. Ensure That Company Leadership Is Leading By Example
Are your company leaders just as focused on growth as they want employees to be? It's hard to stay motivated when company leaders aren't doing their fair share of the work. Company leaders who do the work are well-respected. There is a caveat, though: frontline leaders can get stressed due to the amount of work on their shoulders. Companies need to help leaders do work and lead their teams while preventing undue stress.
14. Schedule Team Building Activities Frequently
If you want to motivate your workers, try regularly scheduling some team building activities. Having quarterly time to come together and learn/grow as a team can significantly impact your employees. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Icebreaker questions
- Get to know you games
- Lunch and learns
- Movie/book clubs
- Speed networking events
- Scavenger hunts
Another great idea for a team building event is trivia. "Throughout the year, we do team trivia events that match with important cultural occasions such as Black History Month, Women's History Month, and Pride," shares Michael Alexis, "At the end of the event, the winning teams select a charity or non-profit that aligns with the theme, and the company makes a $5000 donation to it."
15. Take Employee Love Languages To Connect With Employees The Right Way
Do you want to make a more significant impact with your employee recognition? Use their love or recognition language. For example, some employees will enjoy gifts while others like acts of service. It's important to realize where your team members fall so you can recognize them in a language they value.
16. Create A Profit-Sharing Program Or Award Bonuses For Great Work
When your company succeeds, shouldn't your employees do the same? Profit-sharing programs or bonuses are a great way to motivate your employees to excel at work.
When creating these programs, make sure you have a clear outline of how an employee becomes eligible. It's easy to become demotivated if an employee realizes that the program only exists on paper. These programs will ensure that employees stay on top of and exceed their goals if appropriately executed.
17. Make It Easy To Understand Raises And Promotions
Other types of monetary motivation are raises and promotions. How does a worker make more money? What can someone do to go from individual contributor to manager or director?
As an HR professional, you can clearly define the career trajectory options within each department. Second, make sure you and your employees know when and how raises are awarded within the organization. Having all of this information available inside your employee portal will make it easy for staff members to get motivated.
18. Avoid Micromanaging Staff Members
Micromanagement isn't fun for you or your staff members. Taking control of your team members' activities instead of letting them be the experts they are is frustrating and time-consuming.
There is a famous quote that sums up micromanagement nicely:
"If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room."
You hire employees on your team because they understand their domain well. Unless you have a junior hire, most of your team members will have a command of their job. Even junior hires need room to do their best work.
Micromanagers are worried about their employees and their ability to get tasks done. Employees who work under these conditions feel like they aren't trusted or aren't up to the task. There are ways that managers can get employees to open up and share their struggles. Taking over a job isn't the way to show concern. Instead, let your team know that you are there if they need you, and step out of the way. If you lead well, your team will come to you when they need help.
19. Embrace And Learn From Failure
If you are making an impact, failure is inevitable. Sometimes a team member will miss the mark. How you react to failure is what creates motivated employees. So, how do you address a failure the right way?
- Discuss what happened.
- Dissect the lessons that your team can take from a failure.
- Make a plan that details what to do if a similar issue arises in the future.
Mistakes and failures happen. Your job as a leader is to ensure that you limit consistent errors at work. If an employee is known for excellent, consistent work, try to work with them instead of being angry at them.
20. Give Your Employees Me Time To Recharge
Do you expect an engaged employee to constantly be working from 9-5? This is not a realistic vision for your staff. Employees need time away from their workstations for eating, exercising, stretching, and thinking. If you want to create a stellar work experience, you need to give workers time to recharge and take breaks.
"To stay sane and be successful "me time" is not a luxury or pampering, it is maintenance!" shares Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls, "Respecting time on the calendar and taking yourself as seriously as you take our most important clients is the least the team can do for self-care."
21. Provide Paid Time Off And Longer Sabbaticals To Prevent Workplace Burnout
Besides time to sleep in or taking an afternoon off to recharge, staff members also need longer periods of rest. Encouraging employees by setting a minimum for paid time off or offering paid sabbaticals can prevent burnout. Taking vacations is an essential part of work/life balance.
22. End The Week With A Motivational Boost
Have you ever considered having a team meeting on a Friday? It might be the key to more motivated employees.
"On Friday early afternoons each week is doing a 1-hour call with the entire team," shares Amit Raj, Founder of The Links Guy, "We can talk about any individual wins we've had, any problems we've come across. This helps us learn from each other and also figure out if there are any improvements that can be made–whether it's as individuals or to the process itself."
This quick end-of-the-week meeting helps everyone work together as a team, unwind, and end the week with a bit of motivation. Friday can be difficult to manage, and these meetings help their team get a few more productive hours each week.
Conclusion: Improving Motivation In The Workplace Is Within Reach
Creating excitement in employees with a lack of motivation can seem like a daunting task, but you can do it. Each worker will likely have different energy levels, goals, and needs, but you can build a successful team with the right approach. Write down one or two methods we've discussed today and implement them at work. Then, keep returning for a different idea whenever your employees need a boost of motivation in the workplace.