Employee Motivation – 22 Ways To Increase It

by Daniel Hannig

Today’s workforce is unlike any other before it. Recession and subsequent delays in retirement have led to five generations of workers, all at different stages in their careers and value to your organisation, jostling one another for attention. Keeping employee motivation high is therefore essential for their morale and, in turn, their productivity. Older employees crave stability, while middle generations seek recognition. Younger employees want excitement and growth opportunities and, of course, everyone wants more money. With so many different needs, it may feel impossible to be able to satisfy everyone simultaneously, but recognising and meeting these demands is essential to your company’s success.

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Often companies turn to chest-beating in order to increase employee motivation, but negative displays only work in the short term. In addition, choosing the stick over the carrot can make those closing in on retirement to decide that the wait isn’t worth it. Meanwhile, millennial workers in particular are far too fickle to tolerate old-fashioned, out-of-touch methods for long without searching around for greener pastures. While it takes a little more effort and expense, motivating your employees positively is the only way to ensure increased productivity while earning their loyalty and trust.

Depending on the atmosphere in your office, it might surprise you to learn that, worldwide, only 13% of employees report being engaged. If this is old news for you, don’t worry: we’re here to help. If it’s not, you may want to pay closer attention to your employees before the competition does. Committing to employee motivation isn’t only essential because it makes your employees happy and your workplace more pleasant, although those are two perfectly valid reasons. Without a motivated workforce, companies can encounter difficult terrain. When things are going well, unmotivated employees will do just enough to get by. While a relaxed attitude can be a positive sign of a psychologically safe office, there’s a big difference between employees who feel comfortable in their workplace and those who spend large chunks of their workday bouncing between social media and job sites. When deadlines loom and your company’s reputation is on the line, a lack of motivation can be devastating. After all, any herd is only as strong as its weakest member. Without an urge to prove themselves, fight for the sake of both their own work and a company they care about, and just generally do more, unengaged, unmotivated employees can become a liability.

“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”—Franz Kafka

While it’s tempting to let those risks drive you towards using negative reinforcement, the reality is that your relationship with your employees is a two-way street. Respecting that road is the only surefire way to increase your team’s motivation. An office full of employees walking on eggshells might meet their deadlines for now, but rest assured they’ll be cruising the job sites in their downtime.

Management is, of course, generally aware of this conundrum, and undoubtedly do their best to keep their teams happy. But the busy schedules of those in charge often means that the brunt of motivational strategy boils down to comparatively hamfisted measures (usually involving pay increases and the aforementioned threats of firings and demotions). Organizations looking to tackle the problem of motivation more efficiently might look to startups, and the tech industry in general, where many companies have found innovative motivational solutions that increase their productivity and create a happier workplace culture. Google, for example, reports an 84% job satisfaction rate amongst their employees, according to business insider, while Facebook’s sits at an unbelievable 93%. With this in mind, let’s get down to business. Below are some excellent tips and ideas to keep your employees motivated, engaged, and productive.

Empower Your Team to Make Decisions

Feeling empowered to make decisions that affect their projects, and even overall processes, is a surefire way to improve employee productivity. By allowing your staff to apply their own methods to problem solving, you’re showing confidence in their abilities. It can take time to implement, but once team members have embraced their creative freedom, they’ll endeavour to prove you were right to trust them, with the added bonus of freeing you up to pursue other work.


Foster Friendships

Team members who communicate openly are proven to be more productive. Keep teams to a manageable size, and offices limited to 150 employees (a concept known as “Dunbar’s Number”), and encourage friendships to blossom outside the office by hosting weekly Thirsty Thursdays and occasional team outings. Not only will your teams show more productivity, but the bonds that form can help to reduce turnover as well.

“No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”—Warren Buffett

Money Can’t Buy Time, Neither Does it Increase Employee Motivation

National Ice Cream Day doesn’t have to count, but take steps to observe all public holidays by giving your staff the day off. In fact, consider taking a look at your competitors and resolving to offer the most time off, or even unlimited vacation. It sounds scary, but success stories tied to its use are endless, and it’s quite possibly the most attractive benefit you can offer to increase employee motivation. After all, money can’t buy time (except when it can: be sure to reward overtime, too).

“Being rich is having money; being wealthy is having time.”—Margaret Bonnano

Be Transparent

Consider revamping your performance review process and avoid outdated workplace hierarchies and top-down communication. Today’s employees want to feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and those who know your company’s goals are more likely to work harder to achieve them.

Benefits Over Benjamins

A survey by Glassdoor revealed what savvy business owners already know: today’s employees prefer great perks to a pay raise. To attract a talented staff, the right salary only scratches the surface. Your company’s benefits package isn’t just a way to gain and maintain a great employee base, but a way to show off your company’s values. A staff that is confident they’re working for the right company is one that is working hard to stay there. And no matter your company’s size or budget, you’re better equipped than you might think to offer a motivating benefits package to your employees.


Promote Teamwork and Collaboration

While some team members might work best alone, it’s far more common to see improved productivity from team members who are free to collaborate with their coworkers. Encourage a feeling of community amongst your teams to foster trust, since teammates who trust one another are more motivated to work together.

Be a Better Firer

Fear is an unreliable motivator, and while layoffs and firings are a fact of life, there is always room for empathy and tact when the time comes to let an employee go. Resentful employees have the ability to tarnish your company’s reputation with both current and potential employees, so be gentle and adhere to due process in order to avoid any fallout.

Resist the Urge to Block Social Media

Refusing to allow employees to access social media during work hours displays a lack of trust that you likely can’t afford. People use social media for more than just slacking off, but even when it’s recreational, mental breaks are an important part of productivity. Instead of trying to stamp out a nonexistent problem, just rest assured that you’ve hired a staff who put their work first.

Employee Motivation through Celebrating wins (and Fridays)

Whether it’s a team lunch, an epic dance party, or a happy hour on the company dime, don’t let work blind you to the importance of celebrating wins big and small. These activities bring teams together, foster relationships amongst staff, and motivate employees to keep up the hard work. And don’t limit the celebrations to the achievement of big goals either: it doesn’t have to be every week, but sometimes just making it to Friday can feel like a win and can be used to increase employee motivation.

Bring Back the Employee of the Month

Recognition is a valuable commodity for employees of every generation. By publicly recognizing individuals for their successes, you can create an emotional connection between them and their hard work. Doing so is the first step towards fostering feelings of satisfaction in a job well done.

Consider the Benefits of Working Remotely

Reducing or even eliminating commutes won’t just motivate employees to perform better. By decreasing stress, you’ll see dividends by way of reduced absenteeism and better mental health overall.


Employee Motivation Through Financial Security

Worry-free employees are less distracted, and less stress equals greater motivation. Whether it’s by offering low-interest loans for employees looking to replace a broken-down car, offering free lunches, or inviting a financial professional in to educate staff members on debt repayment and investment strategies, helping your employees to feel more financially secure is a surefire way to get them motivated.

Respect Productive Hours by Letting Employees Create Their Own Schedule

With the world more connected than ever before, tech and creative companies have little excuse for not allowing employees some flexibility in their scheduling. All employees differ in what time of day they are at their most and least productive. Respecting these differences shows your staff that you’re forward-thinking and confident, both in their abilities and their motivation.

Take it Down a Notch

Micromanagers create a self-fulfilling prophecy wherein their inability to trust their subordinates slowly erodes those subordinates’ ability to do their jobs. Possibly the single most effective way to increase employee motivation is to take a deep breath and back off. Not only will their newfound autonomy inspire your team members to prove themselves worthy of your trust, it will make your job easier and less stressful. Click here for tips on how to reel in your micromanaging tendencies.

“Efficiency is doing better what is already being done.” —Peter Drucker

Treat Your Employees as Individuals

Take the time to ask your team members how they prefer to be treated with regards to deadlines, updates, etc., instead of painting everyone with the same brush. By making a commitment to upending the Golden Rule (i.e., “treat everyone as they would like to be treated”), you’ll be making each member of your staff feel heard while motivating them individually to reach their highest potential.

Create an Attractive Work Environment

Some of us might be morning people, but for the rest of us, the hardest, least motivating part of our day is typically the morning. We typically decorate our homes to be places of relaxation; that’s why we look forward to going home after a long day. With this in mind, consider adding everything from decorations to a gym and showers to make your office a place that employees are excited to walk into each morning.

Create a Safe, Healthy Workplace

Physical and mental health issues are a major factor in absenteeism, and when unwell employees do show up to work, they still underperform. There’s no safer investment than that of your workplace wellbeing. By creating a safe, healthy work culture, you’ll not only see increased productivity, but a stronger sense of loyalty from a staff who appreciate that you have their best interests at heart.

Employee Motivation Through Promoting From Within

Motivating your staff to reach higher is pointless if there’s no corporate ladder for them to climb. Be on the lookout for hungry, capable, emotionally intelligent employees with powerful leadership potential. Without fail, qualified employees should be given first crack at new and vacant positions within your organization. It may sound obvious, but ensuring your employees that they have a future within their company is a motivational method that far too many managers overlook.

Keep Things Positive With Some Choice Motivational Quotes

While it’s important to use them carefully–when deemed mandatory by management, for instance, they can come off as insincere and reduce engagement–motivational quotes can be an excellent method for motivating employees (it’s right there in the name, after all). A few well-chosen words from others can be a powerful reminder to employees to work hard, play hard, and be their best selves. For advice on how to implement the use of motivational quotes in your office, along with plenty of examples you can use for almost any situation, click here.


Provide the Right Tools

Frustrated employees are unmotivated employees and nothing is more frustrating than being forced to come up with workarounds at the office when employees are saddled with outdated software. Even converting your operations to simple, low-cost solutions like Google Drive and Slack can have overwhelmingly positive effects as your staff finds barriers to their productivity falling like dominoes and you find employee motivation rising.

Live by Your Core Values

If you haven’t yet codified your company’s core values, it’s not too late to create this powerful motivational tool. Shared values bring people together, and team members are no exception. Identifying your organization’s core values can positively affect every aspect of your company. From a motivational standpoint, core values let your employees know what to expect and demand of management. Put simply, they’re the bedrock upon which your work culture is built.

Defeat Procrastination

Procrastination is the direct effect of a lack of motivation and is one of the biggest killers of productivity. It has cost freelancers, businesses, and entrepreneurs huge chunks of their time and money every year. A 2008 study found that procrastination leads to a $650 billion loss in productivity and innovation each year, and email alone accounts for $70 billion of that. Luckily, there are many ways you can cure this or even prevent this from happening in your team. Be it through better time management, breaking up the workload into smaller chunks, or appointing work buddies for those extra boring and repetitive tasks (if it works at the gym, why shouldn’t it work at the office?), there are many methods that will make your office procrastination habits a thing of the past. For more tips on how to implement these, we recommend this article by Hubstaff.

“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.”—Tom Peters

Trust Yourself

Above all else, when in doubt, don’t only trust your team members: trust yourself. You’ve worked hard to hire a staff worthy of a further investment in their productivity. While some of the above motivational methods might seem counterintuitive, or just too expensive, they’re all perfectly reasonable if you believe in your employees’ ability to handle them responsibly. By making a commitment to an improved work culture with the help of these tips, you’ll see not only massive increases in their productivity, but in your own job satisfaction as well.


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