How to motivate employees - main region

How to motivate employees

Three employees working together on a group task

Highly motivated employees are easy to spot. They exceed their objectives, have a positive attitude, generate strong ideas, support their colleagues and go above and beyond. It’s no wonder then that so many leaders want to understand how to motivate employees long-term.

These employers understand that a well-motivated workforce offers several benefits. They allow an organisation to attain a higher output, solve problems and innovate. They are customer-focused and typically have lower levels of absenteeism and turnover.

Yet achieving such a workforce involves more than offering a strong salary. Certainly, money is essential for achieving our basic needs, however once these needs are met it then plays only a very minor role in employee motivation. Ultimately, money only motivates people so far.

Instead, it’s the factors that stir our intrinsic ambitions that truly motivate us, such as learning new skills, feeling valued and understanding how our role helps the organisation achieve its purpose.

Here are 11 effective ways to motivate employees:

1. Say “thank you”.

Employees want to know that they are doing their job well and their efforts are appreciated. Words of praise cost you nothing, yet they have a profound impact on motivation. Acknowledging the contributions of your team also helps them feel more respected, engaged and happier in their roles.

Some ways to do this include sharing positive feedback from customers or internal stakeholders, offering verbal praise for a recent success or providing formal recognition, such as through an award program. You could also consider a peer-to-peer recognition program, which can be especially helpful in recognising quiet achievers. A staff intranet or the organisation’s social media channels can also be used to recognise employees who go the extra mile.

2. Communicate the big picture.

Regularly updating your staff on the organisation’s overall vision, goals and performance helps keep them invested. It ensures they understand what your organisation is trying to achieve and why, which translates into a higher commitment to these objectives. Of course, you should also clearly communicate your expectations for their role and output, and work together to set clear and achievable objectives and goals.

In turn, this then allows your employees to execute their own tasks because they understand the purpose behind their work and how their own personal responsibilities fit into the big picture.

3. Trust your staff.

A culture in which employers trust their staff to perform their duties and achieve their objectives, rather than micromanaging their people, is another key component of employee motivation. Communicating your trust in your staff, which you back up through your actions, is a huge vote of confidence that pays off in improved motivation.

Trust comes from always being honest and supportive with your staff, consistent and accountable in your decisions and helpful and giving of your time when needed. It can also be displayed through an open-door policy and by allowing your staff to set their own schedule and determine the order in which tasks will be completed. It may even, for suitable roles, extend to where your employees work from home or remotely at an alternative location.

4. Give your people a voice.

Another factor in employee motivation is giving your people the opportunity to share their ideas, solve problems and make decisions for themselves that will improve their work.

It’s also important to consider that motivation can be negatively impacted by an unfavourable work environment. Employees may not want to publicly raise such issues, so regularly provide opportunities for them to anonymously give feedback. Crucially, act on their feedback.

5. Upskill.

The world of work can change rapidly, with technological and industry advances providing new tools to perform existing jobs or altering an employee’s current responsibilities. Committing to the continuous learning and development of your staff not only ensures they have the skills necessary to remain as highly productive as possible, but it is a key factor in keeping their motivation high. After all, what’s more motivating than being encouraged and supported to become the best possible version of you?

Regularly upskilling your staff doesn’t need to be expensive. From offering stretch opportunities to mentorships and taking advantage of free online learning resources, there are many ways you can keep your staff at the growing edge of their career without breaking your budget. For more, download our free Upskilling Matters report

6. Offer a clear progression path.

It’s not enough to just upskill employees. An even greater motivating factor comes from showing employees that they can progress their career with you long-term.

Each year for our annual Hays Salary Guide, we survey skilled professionals on a range of issues, including their reasons for leaving their last role. Year after year a common factor driving turnover is the lack of career progression opportunities that people see within their current organisation.

Therefore, it’s important to talk to your employees one-on-one about their career ambitions and offer them a clear promotional pathway to work towards. While not every employee is motivated by promotions, many are, so make sure they are aware of the promotion prospects within your organisation.

If their promotion aspirations can’t realistically be realised, for whatever reason, then look for a satisfactory middle ground. For example, could more autonomy or say within the team, a sideways move into another department or the chance to take a secondment to an overseas office fuel their motivational drive instead?

7. Create a modern office environment.

Creating a workplace that people enjoy working in and feel inspired by is another way of maintaining motivation. However, this doesn’t mean you have to purchase expensive furniture or pool tables. Instead, consider what small office improvements you could make, such as introducing more light, updating your systems or investing in new technology.

If you have concerns about your office environment, why not ask your team to suggest improvements? Review their suggestions then commit to and share a list of upgrades that will occur.

8. Be available.

Regardless of how busy you are, make time in your schedule to be present for your staff – and stick to it. It’s very demotivating, not to mention frustrating, when an employee needs your advice or approval, yet you are never available to assist. Similarly, if you regularly postpone your one-on-ones, it can negatively impact motivation and productivity since employees may be uncertain about their priorities or how to progress with certain tasks.

9. Be aware of your management style.

As a manager, you can make or break your employees’ motivation. Remember, you are the ‘voice’ of the organisation they hear from most, so make sure your management style is respectful rather than demotivating. This includes being open and sharing information, avoiding micromanaging or monopolising credit and focusing on positive results rather than inconsequential mistakes. 

10. Refresh your performance reviews.

The annual performance review has long been used as the primary method by which organisations measure the success of individual employees. However, many organisations are replacing it with more regular feedback sessions. A lot can happen in a year and regular reviews are often more authentic and effective than one annual backward-looking assessment of the last 12 months.

11. Ask your employees for feedback.

It’s also important to have open and honest one-on-one conversations with your employees about what motivates them. No two people are the same, so find out what additional steps you could take to increase each individual employees’ motivation. For example, one of your employees may not enjoy working on certain tasks or may want to take on additional responsibilities in an area outside their current job description. Or perhaps an employee would value the opportunity to leave work an hour early one day a week to pursue a personal interest. Either way, the crucial point is to listen to your employees so that you understand what motivates each individual person and then tailor your approach accordingly.

Knowing how to motivate employees will ensure your team operates productively and achieves a good level of output. It helps you achieve your goals and ultimately improves your bottom line. While it doesn’t always come easily, with these tips you’ll be able to encourage and inspire your staff to put in their best effort each day.

For more advice on how to motivate and engage your staff, read our Staff Engagement report.


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