How to Motivate Employees in 15 Simple Steps [+ Why They Work]

How to Motivate Employees in 15 Simple Steps [+ Why They Work]

As the average employee becomes more connected and educated, their standards rise regarding what they expect out of the workplace. If employees feel like they are just another cog in the machine, their motivation, loyalty, and satisfaction with their jobs will drop significantly. So how do you motivate employees?

Unfortunately, it’s not easy. And many managers and HR teams are seeing a big dip in their employee engagement of late. Whether this is caused by a lack of recognition, challenge, or reward, employees that simply go through the motions will make your company suffer. Reduced motivation can often result in a stale workplace that fails to inspire creativity, growth, and success.

If you’re recognizing similar symptoms in your staff and wish to remedy the problem, keep reading to learn how to motivate employees and get your business back on track.

1. Work Out Who Your Employees Are

Time and time again employers make the mistake of trying to create a one-size-fits-all program to motivate their employees. The issue with this approach is that employees tend to be extremely diverse and aren’t motivated or inspired by the same things as their colleagues.

Employees are real people and real people can vary and differ in an endless number of ways. From age, religion, interests, opinions, preferences, and approaches, your staff is going to lead very different lives. This isn’t a negative either. Having a diverse team will provide learning and growth opportunities as well as new ideas and fresh takes on old processes or tasks. Embrace your employees’ individuality and use it to your advantage.

Learning about each individual employee and what drives them is essential to building a strong team and keeping their motivation levels soaring. Some employees may be motivated by travel or sports, others might be saving for a retirement fund or thrive when a healthy competition is afoot.

Asking personal questions and getting to know your employees on a deeper level will help you structure a perfect program to boost creativity, motivation, and satisfaction within your staff.

You want to make sure that you aren’t only asking questions about career-related prospects and interests when speaking with your employees. Asking the important questions will not only provide you with all the answers you need to spark that motivation but can also build a rapport with your staff and let them know you care. Surprisingly, this in itself can help inspire and motivate employees.

Here is a small list of questions to get you started:

  1. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from your parents?
  2. Who was your childhood hero?
  3. Who is someone from your past that you haven’t spoken to in over six months?  What’s stopping you from reaching out to them?
  4. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
  5. What are your hobbies?
  6. What do you think your friends would say about you?

There are endless questions you can ask your employees to get to know them on a more personal level. Listen to what they have to say and you’ll soon see what inspires and motivates each of your staff.

2. Set An Example

Motivation starts at the top of the food chain so it’s vital that you’re setting a good example for your staff. Don’t be afraid to get on their level and help out with small day-to-day tasks when you have the time. Showing your employees that you aren’t above their level can inspire their confidence in you and ultimately in the company.

All leadership, HR teams, and management throughout your company should live by this principle for the best results. Here are three ways you can set a great example for your employees:

Be Kind

The best example you can set for your employees is to be kind. Each of us faces struggles that we don’t often let on to our boss or coworkers. It’s also important to remember that we are all affected by circumstances in our own way.

If your employee is sick, don’t force them to come into work but rather ensure they stay home and get the rest they need. Check up on them and remind them that you’re here to help.

If a star performer in the company has been lacking lately, sit them down for a conversation to see what’s going on in their lives that may be causing the drop. Instead of punishing your employees, work with them to create new goals and let them know you’re always available for support.

Be What You Want Them to Be

While you may have hired your employees because they hold different skills to you, that doesn’t mean you can’t lead them in their areas of expertise. Think outside of the box and you’ll soon notice your employees taking on the same quality. If you want your employees to be creative and motivated, you must first show them that you are also creative and motivated.

Too often we see employers asking their employees to do something that they themselves are not willing to complete. Employees pick up on this instantly, so there’s no point in trying to fool them. Want your employees to take risks and show ambition? Then when they come up with new innovative ideas, don’t shoot them down because you feel safer sticking to the processes and methods you’ve used previously.

There’s no faster way to build or break relationships with your employees than leading by example.

Take the Blame, But Share the Praise

This is when you’ll have to go against your instincts and put yourself in the line of fire for your staff. Taking the heat for your employees will earn you respect and shows that you don’t put your own interests above the team.

On the other side of the coin, be sure to share any praise you receive from the leadership team with your employees. Taking credit for something that was a group effort will only hurt your relationship with your staff members. Be sure that when someone praises you for a job well done you step in to say it wasn’t just up to you but your whole team. Handing out praise behind closed doors and not in front of leadership is just as bad as not sharing the praise at all.

If you’re in leadership it’s not just your responsibility to manage your team but also to set a strong example of what you and the company expects of its staff. If the people at the top of your company aren’t doing something, you can’t expect everyone else to do the opposite.

3. Be Transparent And Establish Open Communication

Practicing transparency is crucial when it comes to building trust and respect with your employees. A lack thereof can destroy any credibly you worked to create for your company.

While you might fear sharing any sensitive or critical information with staff members, hiding it from them only spreads dishonesty and discord through your company. When leadership doesn’t include staff it feels as if they are keeping a secret and can cause employees to think the worst. Yes, there is a risk in sharing this sort of information with the entire company but levels of engagement and trust gained from doing so undoubtedly outweigh the negatives.

While it is important to keep things like your revenue or losses from leaving your company, there isn’t any reason why your team shouldn’t be kept up to date on where you’re at. Don’t sugarcoat bad numbers either, your team works hard to keep you in business and they need to know if what they are doing should be improved on. Sometimes bad numbers can be the push that your team requires to get a fresh boost of inspiration.

Establishing an open line of communication with all of your staff is just as important as being transparent with them. By keeping them in the loop with what is going on in your business, you can invite them to keep you in the loop when it comes to what is happening in each of their departments. Be sure to send out memos and emails regarding any important matters. Even if it may not directly affect an individual or their role, all staff will appreciate knowing what is happening company-wide.

You should also be encouraging when it comes to staff sharing any concerns or praises they have for the company. If you really want to know how things are running, you can send out an employee engagement survey to your staff. While this will help your staff communicate their issues (sometimes anonymously) you should also make it clear that you’ve got an open-door policy and are always willing to hear them out. This goes for both career or company issues and personal ones.

4. Create A Positive Work Environment

The work environment has a huge impact on the mood and motivation levels of your employees. The workplace should inspire your staff and help boost employee morale and mood for optimal work production. Creating a space that allows staff to concentrate, focus, and provide them with the energy needed to complete their tasks will send your employee engagement skyrocketing.

You need to invest in a workplace that improves your employees’ mood and acts as a space they actually enjoy spending their time in. This may include purchasing or building new furniture, redecorating the space, or moving into a new workplace altogether. Assess your options and try to implement what works for you and your budget.

Studies show that workplaces with noisy air conditioning, low ceilings, and no personal touches can have a massive negative impact on employees’ moods. Natural light and open layouts can help counteract some of these issues but the key to making an office a center of motivation and productivity lies with the kitchen and communal areas. More workplaces are resembling homes these days and the kitchen has turned into the office hub. This is because humans are naturally social creatures and want to have the opportunity to connect with their coworkers and feed off their energy.

In companies like Google, the cafeteria was specifically designed to have long wait times so that staff must engage in conversation with people in various departments. Google found that many fresh ideas and creativity were inspired during some of these lunchtime conversations and have been able to use them to grow their business.

Focus your efforts on creating a great communal space for your workers to relax and collaborate for the best results. A unique homey space will help motivate your company and ensure that they enjoy coming to work each day.

Can’t afford to rework your entire office? There’s a short term solution you can use instead.

Try escaping the office for the day, hire some buses and get everyone far away from what a normal workday resembles. It can be as easy as spending the day in a park or on a beach near your office or as elaborate as hiring out a new workspace for a few days. Giving your employees a change of scenery will spark new ideas and give them a fresh outtake on mundane tasks. Shaking up the regular routine has immense powers when it comes to inspiring and motivating staff members that feel cooped up in a clinical office.

5. Invest In Your Employees

Your employees are your best asset when it comes to your company and you wouldn’t be able to run a business without them. With that in mind, just like any other asset, you should invest in your employees to get the most out of them.

You can invest in your employees by providing them with ample opportunities to improve their skills through training and education. By including education-related perks to your employee benefits plan, you’re letting them know how much you care about their personal development and that you believe in their abilities. This can do wonders for employee motivation levels and can see your productivity and success increase tenfold.

Companies like FutureFuel.io exist to aid you when it comes to helping your employees with their student loans. Whether it’s setting up wellbeing programs, providing personal development opportunities, or helping out with student loan repayments, your employees will recognize your efforts and wish to repay you and your company.

6. Allow Your Employees To Invest In You

Just like you need to invest in your employees, allowing your employees to invest in you and your company will help improve their motivation and job satisfaction. Actually give your employees the opportunity to become shareholders in your company.

When an employee is simply working for a wage or salary, they lose interest in what they are doing and it can cause them to become disconnected from their role within the company.

Keep in mind that this particular type of motivation won’t pay off overnight, rather it can take a while before you see the change in your staff. As they acquire more stocks in your company, their motivation to ensure it succeeds is increased.

By having partial ownership of the company, your employees will be willing to go above and beyond to see it thrive. When employees have more of a personal connection to the organization, they care about it and will surpass the normal expectations and duties of their role.

7. Advocate For Your Employees

Studies show that employee motivation and engagement are directly related to the relationship they have with their immediate supervisors. Being an advocate from your employees will only help to strengthen your bond and cultivate quality relationships with your staff. Here are a few ways managers can effectively advocate for their staff:

  • Listen to their concerns and communicate them to upper management.To be able to advocate for an employee’s needs, they need to be listened to. Find out whatever is hindering them and why they aren’t succeeding in their role. You should be asking your staff in both a formal and informal setting what they need to complete their job.Remember that managers are the bridge between staff and leadership, things that wouldn’t normally reach too far up the organizational ladder can with their help. Showing staff you’re willing and able to pass their messages along and get the ball rolling creates a rapport that inspires them to do better.When employees see their managers pushing for them, they want to push back and the results can be phenomenal.
  • Share their exceptional performance and wins with all departments.Different departments in a company can often stay separate and box themselves in unless the management and leaders make a conscious effort to break down these walls. Compartmentalized units can frequently lose sight of the company as a whole and therefore can lose sight of the values and goals it’s trying to achieve. By bursting through these barriers, managers are lifting up their team.Sharing your employees’ successes and growth with all departments helps your staff create connections company-wide. Not only will it inspire them to work harder to receive more praise but it also makes them want to work harder for other departments. Managers should strive to give out recognition like this on a regular basis. It will create higher performance and engagement levels and can also open up opportunities for their staff.
  • Help top performers by seeking out growth opportunities for them.Smart managers understand that they can’t always hold onto top performers, but rather must build them up and send them on to greater achievements. When management tries to stifle the growth of an employee because they don’t want to lose them, they are only preventing the inevitable. They are also creating a message that working hard won’t be worthwhile and can hinder success for the company.Growing with your top performers and strengthening the relationship with them has far better outcomes. By advocating for their success, growth, and future, you’re letting staff know that you not only value their contribution to the company but care about their long term career prospects.Advocating for your employees by seeking out advancement opportunities can come in many forms. From pushing them to take a new training course to improve their leadership skills or supporting their learning journey, many employees will be forever grateful to a manager that can help them with personal and professional development.

Creating a strong bond with staff through advocation will ensure they work hard for you. Their appreciation for your efforts will result in satisfied, engaged, and motivated employees.

8. Break Up Big Projects

Breaking huge projects up into more manageable chunks isn’t anything new or unfamiliar. Big looming projects, while they may seem exciting at first, can often become daunting and overwhelming once they are underway. When it seems there’s endless work to complete, employees can disengage from their roles and tasks. They could opt to just go through the motions in order to avoid burnout, rather than keeping up the hard work.

Employees often go from being excited about tackling a new project to dreading it and breaking it up can help to avoid this. There are plenty of tools and resources available that detail the best ways you can break up large tasks into more achievable steps. One of the most researched and effective methods to divide work and boost progress is known as S.M.A.R.T.

S.M.A.R.T goals essentially help the team understand the bigger picture but also shows the smaller steps that it takes to reach that end goal. S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timeline and outlines exactly what each of your incremental goals should be in order to achieve success.

Bring your team together and brainstorm several goals you wish to achieve and what steps you must take in order to reach them. Then turn each of these steps into a S.M.A.R.T goal by running them through the checklist. This will ensure your team isn’t overwhelmed by the bigger projects you have going on and keeps them motivated and accountable.

9. Create Stretch Goals

The definition of a stretch goal is that it’s just out of your reach. When leadership and managers set up goals that seem challenging but not impossible, it lets them know you believe that they can achieve the far-fetched.

Having these stretch goals dangling just above what your employees can currently achieve will motivate them to push themselves and work harder to prove they are capable. If the work and goals you’re providing your staff don’t challenge them or push them outside of their comfort zone they won’t be able to grow. Completing tasks that are too easy actually serves to bore your employees.

Be careful not to set goals that are too big as well. If a goal actually is too much for an employee it will drain their energy and serve to dishearten them when they are unable to complete it despite their best efforts. They might become angry thinking that you are asking too much of them and can create unwanted stress and tension in the business.

According to some studies, the sweet spot for stretch goals is 4% above what your team can already achieve. This allows for real growth within employees while not letting them burn out from overworking.

Stretch goals should also be constant and consistent for the best results. Inconsistency with stretch goals will only allow your employees to take a break and stop their workflow. This will counteract the productivity achieved by implementing the stretch goals in the first place, so you really don’t want there to be an “end goal” or “stopping point” when creating these goals for your team.

10. Approach Tasks In An Exciting Way

Challenges, competition, and games are key tools in making the everyday mundane seem more exciting. These techniques when implemented correctly will motivate your employees to no avail.

Gamification of important tasks has become a more popular way to motivate staff in recent years. It allows companies to turn work into one big video game where staff can earn badges and rewards for exceptional performance.

When it comes to gamifying your workplace, be sure to approach it in a way that is creative and unique. The number one reason this method fails when companies try to implement it is that they don’t add their own spin and try to use another organization’s template. Gamification works best when it’s personal and is specifically suited to your employees’ skills.

Running small office competitions can also boost your employees’ workflow. These competitions and challenges don’t need to be elaborate either. You can simply encourage your employees by running a lunchtime trivia game or sports match. Anything goes here!

By making the workplace more exciting and matching everyday tasks with the companies values, you’ll be increasing your productivity by 32%.

Here are a few more ideas to liven up your workplace:

  • Have board games available for staff to use during their break.
  • Create a baking competition and have all staff bring in a homemade good for you to judge.
  • Buy a whiteboard or some butcher’s paper and set up an artboard for people to add to. Not only will this decorate the office a bit but it will serve as a message board for birthdays, upcoming projects, and other important tasks and events in the office.
  • Host a TedEd style event where employees can discuss the current projects they are working on and get feedback from a group.
  • Mix & Meet events can be great at ensuring different departments get a chance to mingle with one another and learn who is on the other side of their email chain.
  • Host a photo captioning competition and give out a prize to whoever can come up with the most interesting caption.
  • Have a Halloween costume competition in the office or a fancy dress on Friday.

If you can come up with your own unique office games to get people involved and make work more fun, than all the better. Use what you already have and ensure that the entire office can be included for incredible results.

11. Avoid Unnecessary Tension Between Employees

While setting up healthy competition in the workplace can work to your advantage, you need to ensure it doesn’t add any tension between your employees. Any ongoing negative interactions between your employees will only cause stress, distrust, and discomfort for everyone involved.

Keep in touch with what is happening with all your employees and be sure to note when any conflicts seem to be brewing. Provide a safe space for employees to air any grievances that they have with other staff members and equipt them with tools and techniques to help them manage these disagreements.

Pitting the performance of a single individual against the team can actually do more harm than good. Remember that all big tasks start with something small and success is never the result of a single individual, but rather is a result of everyone working in their role to ensure the big task is completed.

The biggest thing you want to avoid is turning healthy competition into a cutthroat game of self-interest. To reduce tensions, you should pay attention to the different personalities of your employees and how they might interact. Studies show that 49% of employees clashed due to conflicting personalities. Taking action to avoid situations where these personalities would blow up is a key element to keeping the workplace conflict-free.

12. Focus On Team Building

When an employee can come to work and feel welcomed by their coworkers they will enjoy rocking up to the office each day and putting in the hard yards. Connection and friendships between employees are the top drivers for job satisfaction and motivation in the workplace.

Here are a few team building techniques you can try in your workplace:

  • Ice breakers: Ice breaker games allow coworkers to connect and get to know one another on a more personal level. These games, while they may seem trivial, can allow employees to lower their guard and create friendships with others.
  • Collaborative tasks: Encouraging your staff to work together on small tasks can lead to them working on big tasks together later on. Create small everyday tasks that require different groups to interact and work together, whether that’s creating a monthly employee event or watering the office plants, these small challenges will help coworkers connect and speak with one another.
  • Employee events: If you have the budget, it’s a good idea to host recurring company events and mixers.
  • Cook-off: Nothing like a little competition to get teams working together. A cook-off not only makes individuals work together but also leaves you with a delicious treat at the end of the day.
  • Scavenger Hunt: Just like the cook-off, a scavenger hunt requires each person to work with their team in order to complete the task. Employees will get to know their colleagues’ strengths in these situations which can be carried over into the workplace.

While it’s great to work these team-building tasks into your day-to-day, it’s even better to host a team day once a year. You should have a team day set up that incorporates everything your company embodies. From scavenger hunts to community service, your team day should cater to the values of your company and bring together different groups.

Companies and organizations that have implemented an annual or biannual team day have seen improvements in employee productivity, problem-solving, communication, and motivation. By creating a chance for employees to frequently collaborate with one another, you’ll notice your team gaining the skills to effectively work together on projects both large and small.

13. Give Employees Autonomy

Employees do not appreciate being micromanaged, and can you blame them? Having managers or leadership watching over your shoulder actually creates a distraction rather than help individuals focus. Micromanagement also insinuates that you don’t trust your employees to complete their jobs. This lack of faith in your staff will not go unnoticed and before long you’ll have people quitting their jobs to work for employers that believe in them.

To avoid this sort of negativity it doesn’t hurt to give your workers a bit of freedom and autonomy in their roles. You hired them for a reason, so let them carry out their tasks on their own.

Hovering only wastes your time and can stress out your employees unnecessarily. Granting autonomy, on the other hand, will demonstrate that you trust your employees to carry out everything they are required to. It also leaves them with more energy and space to go beyond what their role entails and work harder for your organization.

Freedom and autonomy can also help leadership and management build a relationship with their staff that transcends the hierarchy of a workplace. When employees can get along with their managers on a deeper level, they are happier to come into work and want to do their best for the company. Giving your employees space will help them to develop processes and methods which may surprise you and is a great way to build a more self-motivated and self-sufficient team.

Unfortunately, autonomy is actually one aspect of business that many companies overlook because they believe people are unable to work on their own terms despite the evidence that proves otherwise. Even when companies give autonomy it isn’t done successfully because they restrict it in certain ways.

Try giving your staff freedom not only in their projects and work but also in their scheduling and time off. If it’s possible, you can even allow employees to work from home on occasion. Studies have proven that not only are employees more motivated when working from home, but their productivity levels also skyrocket.

14. Celebrate Every Win

Nothing gets people more motivated than a chance to let loose. While showing your appreciation and gratitude will boost your employees to work harder, its nothing compared to having that light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a celebration with friends and family.

Not only should you set up a regular celebration to have a few drinks or lunch with your employees, but don’t be afraid to take everyone for coffee or organize a team breakfast after a big win.

Spending time with our friends and colleagues in an informal situation strengthens bonds and can have lasting effects in the workplace. If you’re not sure what to do when it comes to throwing a celebration, here are a few ideas:

Host a team breakfast at the cafe down the road.

  • Take everyone out for coffee.
  • Order pizza for an office lunch.
  • Commit to a Friday night drinks.
  • Bring in a barbeque and cook up a feast for everyone.
  • Organize a team picnic.

At these get-togethers, be sure to remind your colleagues why you’re hosting. Even better, get them involved and have them prepare a list of what wins they’ve had this month. You can also ask them to prepare a list of the good work they’ve noticed from their colleagues to read out at the event. This will help your staff recognize and appreciate all the work that their team members are doing. It will also help your staff feel seen for the efforts they are putting in each day.

While we want to celebrate the wins in our careers it’s important to also celebrate personal milestones for your employees. You can bring in a cake for birthdays or send flowers to someone who just graduated from college. These small celebrations of your employees’ successes will win you brownie points and hardworking staff in return.

15. Reward Your Employees

There are endless ways to reward employees for a job well done, however, not all of them will inspire motivation. Yes, a bonus or pay increase is a great start, but it doesn’t add a personal touch and can start to feel transactional. It can also get extremely expensive for your company.

Comprehensive benefit packages are on the rise with fresh takes and novelty extras to boost employee morale. While it’s important to include the basics, such as health insurance, retirement packages, and paid time off, thinking outside of the box when it comes to which benefits you provide will pay off better.

Below we’ve included a few examples of what you can add to your benefits packages to boost employee motivation.

Wellbeing programs: Healthy employees tend to focus more and have fresh ideas. Getting those endorphins pumping can spark productivity and will make for happier staff. There are tons of ways you can champion this type of benefit from hiring a personal trainer to visit your office once a week and hold a class to paying for a gym membership.

Providing healthy snacks such as fruit in the kitchen can be another aspect of your wellbeing program. We’ve also seen great results from companies that gamify their wellbeing programs and give out prizes to staff who have walked the most steps or gone to a certain number of gym classes. Prizes in these situations could be anything from a voucher for a new exercise class to a sports massage.

Commuter assistance: Whether you help your employees make their way to work with public transit subsidies, fuel vouchers, or equipt them with bicycles, helping your employees make it to the office can hugely impact their mood once they get to work. The morning commute can often leave employees feeling drained before they even make it into the office, so if you can help them, even in a small way, your efforts will be rewarded.

Student Loan Repayments: In today’s society, one of the biggest debts held by individuals is their student loan. It can be an overwhelming burden, carrying around thousands of dollars worth of debt that can take up a lot of mind space of your employees. If they’re so concerned about their student loans, it can leave little room to be inspired and therefore their motivation takes a nosedive.

By helping your employees by contributing to their student loan repayments using a platform like FutureFuel, you’ll be gaining grateful and loyal staff. More employers are realizing that with their employees less concerned about paying off debts, they are putting in more thought to their job and have higher levels of creativity and innovation.

This is one bandwagon you’ll want to jump on sooner rather than later, as employees are likely to jump ship and work for another company that provides such a highly sought after perk.

There are plenty of other ways you can inspire your staff with rewards so put your thinking caps on.

Why Does Employee Motivation Matter?

There are several reasons that make employee motivation and engagement essential when it comes to running an organization. The main driver for the importance of employee motivation is that it will help your company achieve all of its goals. Without a motivated workplace, your organization will struggle to stay afloat.

Of course, there are plenty of other benefits to ensuring your team is motivated. Motivated employees are more productive, committed, efficient, and are constantly looking at what they can do for you and the company. Rather than browsing through Facebook or Twitter while at work, motivated employees actually care about the work they are completing and consider it a top priority. These employees are more likely to put their best foot forward when it comes to carrying out tasks and wants to see your organization succeed.

Stats and revenue will soar when you have motivated employees as their productivity and performance levels have been proven to increase. A team of motivated staff who are dedicated to ensuring your company thrives is priceless and there’s almost nothing that they can’t achieve. Great things happen when leaders put employee motivation first.

Employee motivation matters because it inspires employees to go above the call of duty. Essentially, employee motivation is a critical aspect of any business that directly affects the company’s success. Making sure your employees are motivated in the workplace should be a part of your regular routine. If pushed under the rug, a lack of motivation could be the downfall of any organization.

The Takeaway

Motivating your employees isn’t an easy task and you’ll need to do a lot of research into what works for your organization. Remember that each of your employees will be motivated by different things so it’s good to implement a variety of techniques to ensure everyone enjoys coming to work and will put in their best efforts.

Don’t be afraid to try different things out and be sure to communicate your plans with your employees. Try and include them and ask their opinions on what activities and work practices inspire them the most. While asking them informally is great, you can also get more measured answers by performing an employee satisfaction survey. This is a great way to get a real insight into what your employees are thinking and what will keep them on track with work.

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