The challenge of motivating employees is one that supervisors are well-served by focusing on, but there isn't a magic formula for workforce motivation. Motivating employees must begin with an understanding of the basic fact that not everyone is motivated by the same things. While there are some commonalties when it comes to identifying key factors for motivation in the workplace, it's important to incorporate multiple motivation strategies into your organization and the way that you approach managing people.
Ten Key Employee Motivation Strategies
1. Set a Leadership Example
An Inc. magazine article stresses how important it is for managers to set an appropriate example for their employees, pointing out to leaders that "your attitude is contagious." Workers are not likely to be motivated themselves if company management doesn't seem to be highly motivated. When you are in a leadership role, it's critical to realize the importance of modeling the behaviors that you want to see in your employees. While people may not become motivated just because you are, they can certainly become de-motivated very quickly if your attitudes and behaviors portray a lack of motivation.
2. Share the Company's Vision
In order to become motivated, employees need to have a clear picture of what the organization stands for and where it is going. A Forbes magazine article states that an important key to motivation starts with "clearly defin(ing) the organization's vision, mission and strategy" and further suggests that employees should be involved in the process of crafting these key elements of the organization's identity. This is because people are much more likely to be motivated when they truly feel like they are involved in the "big picture" of the organization and they see an alignment between their own values and goals and those of the company as a whole.
3. Establish Appropriate Goals
Having specific goals to work toward can be a motivating factor for employees. However, goals must be set in an appropriate manner in order to function as motivators. An article on LeadersBeacon.com points out that goals must be clearly defined and achievable in order to be effective. Goal that will take a significant period of time to accomplish should have built-in milestones, so that people have an opportunity to formally recognize successful progress along the way in order to remain focused and motivated.
4. Build a Positive Work Environment
The atmosphere in a company plays a major role in employee motivation. AllBusiness.com urges managers to focus on cultivating a positive environment by being approachable to everyone and avoiding being perceived as playing favorites with some team members. This involves maintaining a sincere open door policy and making sure that all employees know that they are always welcome to come to you with concerns or questions.
5. Share Performance Feedback
Employees need to hear feedback on how they are doing. An article on CallCentreHelper.com points out that a simple call from someone in leadership recognizing positive performance can go a long way toward motivating employees, as can sharing customer feedback with team members via a bulletin board or employee newsletter. Letting employees know when they are doing well, as well as providing helpful constructive criticism when there are opportunities for improvement, are important aspects of motivating via feedback.
6. Express Appreciation
Too many supervisors think that employees should know they are appreciated simply because they remain employed and continue to receive paychecks, but this is simply not the case. An article on the Dale Carnegie blog encourages employers to frequently tell employees how important they are. Saying "thank you" is a simple way to let employees know that they matter, and it goes a long way toward improving workplace motivation and productivity. Employees who know that they are appreciated are much more likely to feel motivated to continue to perform at a high level. Those who don't feel appreciated are often less productive than those who do.
7. Provide Learning Opportunities
Being willing to invest in employee learning and development opportunities can have a positive impact on employee motivation. Legacy Bowes Group, a talent management firm, points out that it's important to provide both job-related training and future-focused career development opportunities. With the demands of the workplace changing faster than ever, employees find it motivating to work for companies that help them continue developing their skills on an ongoing basis, including skills that will help them keep up with current job demands as well helping them prepare to accomplish long-term career goals.
8. Avoid Micromanagement
Supervisors who want their employees to be motivated must find an appropriate balance between managing and micromanaging. A Fast Company article points out that "employees don't like to be micromanaged" and encourages leaders to recognize the difference between "checking in and checking up on your employees." When employees have bosses who want to control every aspect of what they are doing, they tend to become de-motivated. Supervisors are well-served to realize that their roles involve making sure employees know what needs to be done and how to do their jobs while also allowing workers to have autonomy.
9. Allow Flexibility
Modern employees have a lot of stresses and demands on their time outside of the workplace. Managers who recognize and allow for the need for flexibility in the workplace are often the ones who are most effective when it comes to creating a culture that's defined by positive motivation. Xceleration, an Atlanta-based employee rewards and recognition firm, emphasizes the importance of "creating and maintaining a healthy work-life balance for staff members" and points out that allowing for flexibility is an important key to accomplishing this sometimes-difficult task. Companies that remain focused on goals and performance while allowing flexibility in terms of working times and allowing work to be completed remotely - as appropriate - can improve motivation.
10. Cultivate a Fun Workplace
Managers should keep in mind that employees spend quite a lot of time at work, which means that the workplace can't be solemn and somber all the time. While productivity and performance are of utmost importance, people also need to work in a pleasant environment where they sometimes have fun. An article on the Halogen Software blog emphasizes that it's important to "inject some fun into the workplace." Look for ways to productively encourage laughter and enjoyment into your organization in ways that are appropriate. Encourage friendly chatter and banter, as well as create shared experiences such as potluck employee lunches, special occasion celebrations and more.
Managing with Motivation in Mind
You don't have to spend a lot of money in order to create a workplace that is defined by motivation. Employee motivation is not something that you can purchase, but rather it's something that comes from taking steps to create a work environment and culture where people are treated with respect and where they know they are valued for their unique and individual contributions while also feeling like part of the team.
Remember that managing for motivation is an ongoing process. People can become de-motivated very quickly if the work environment changes in a negative way.