How to Motivate Employees: 7 Strategies That Work
When employees are motivated, they do better work. We don't have to tell you that. But increasing your employees’ motivation -- that's the tricky part. Armed with the right strategies, you can increase employee motivation, as you'll see below.
1. Promote Work/Life Balance
It may be tempting to push your employees as hard as possible in order to extract the maximum amount of work, but the research shows this logic is fundamentally wrong. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, employees with good work-life balance report higher job satisfaction and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Humans are not variables in equations to be maximized; they are complex organic systems who will break (or at least weaken) if you push them too hard.
Instead, you should do everything you can to give your team members the work-life balance they need. The specifics of this will vary depending on your company, but some things to try include letting people go home when they've finished their work (not just when the clock strikes 5), not keeping people late when you can avoid it, and offering plenty of vacation time.
2. Experiment with Incentives
Speaking of vacation time, you should also work to provide employees the right incentives so that they feel appreciated and value their role with your firm. It's easy to think that giving people more money will boost their motivation, but the research shows that this only works up to a point. Researchers from Princeton University found that, beyond $75,000 per year, the correlation between income level and life satisfaction is quite weak. We're not suggesting you shouldn't pay people more than that, particularly if their job experience and skills merit it, but it does reveal the value in experimenting with other types of incentives to boost motivation.
For example, you can run competitions to see who can meet certain sales quotas with gift cards to popular restaurants as the prize. Or you can offer increased paid vacation time to employees who exceed their performance goals. After all, as Glassdoor found in a 2015 survey, 80% of employees would choose additional benefits over a pay raise. And beyond that, different things motivate different people, so you should also observe which incentives work best for which employees and tailor your approach accordingly.
3. Establish an Open-Door Policy
If employees don't feel like they can speak to HR or management about their career goals, job satisfaction, and performance, their motivation will suffer. Establishing an open-door policy goes a long way toward making employees feel involved and engaged in their work. We're not saying that the CEO has to have their door open to everyone all the time (that wouldn't be practical), but even having a clearly defined block of time to meet with employees can have a huge effect on motivation.
4. Show Your Appreciation
Showing employees you appreciate their hard work is a free, simple way to boost motivation. Despite this, it's all too easy to overlook. Research shows, however, you do so at your peril. Forbes reported in 2016 that, according to a study from Office Team, 66% of employees would "likely leave their job if they didn't feel appreciated".
And even if under-appreciated employees don't quit, a lack of appreciation can still hurt their performance. You may assume that "no news is good news", but that's simply not the case--employee recognition is key to boosting and maintaining high motivation.
Moreover, you don’t have to go to elaborate lengths to show appreciation. You can do small things. Did an employee just make a big sale? Send them a hand-written thank you note. Did someone reach a career milestone like a 10-year anniversary? Have a small party to celebrate them. These little measures matter.
5. Articulate Your Mission
What are your employees working toward? What does their work mean in terms of your company's big picture? You may assume they know, but this is a dangerous assumption. Sure, an employee knows their job duties and even certain performance metrics or quotas. But that’s not enough if you want highly motivated employees. Your employees need to see the mission their work furthers. And if you don’t know what that mission is, you need to figure it out, whether that means clarifying the company mission with other executives or working with them to articulate it.
And once you do have that mission, you need to make it clear to employees in everything that your company does. It should be in your training materials, your interviews, your job postings, your performance reviews, and the overall work culture of your company.
6. Foster Intrinsic Motivation
Many of the strategies we’ve discussed so far have focused on extrinsic motivation:motivating people using external rewards or incentives. But we cannot neglect intrinsic motivation, which can be even more powerful. It’s one thing to do a job just to collect a paycheck and survive; it’s quite another to do one that you believe in, with work that goes beyond you, with your impact as the true measure of your success. Someone who works for these reasons has intrinsic motivation, and they’ll persist through circumstances that would cause those solely with extrinsic motivation to quit.
But how do you build intrinsic motivation in your employees? Certainly, you can’t get rid of external incentives--you have to offer the industry-standard compensation at the very least, as people cannot work for free. But if you focus on the last strategy and have a clear mission behind what you do, then you can motivate people to do things for more than just the paycheck.
7. Show Employees Their Future
When your employees have a long-term goal to work toward, their motivation will skyrocket. One of the key long-term goals to ensure employee motivation is the future of their careers. What will they be doing at your company in a year? 5 years? 10 years? You must work with employees to be intentional about this process, not only to boost their motivation but also to ensure their retention.
Meet with employees regularly to assess how they feel about their job, what their career goals are, and how you can help them accomplish those goals. In conjunction with this, use internal hiring to fill open positions, and make employees aware such programs exist.
You should now have a better understanding of how to motivate your employees to go beyond the bare minimum. To review, the strategies you can us eare as follows:
Ensure work life balance
Experiment with incentives
Have an open-door policy
Show your appreciation
Articulate your mission
Foster intrinsic motivation
Show employees their future
With these techniques at your disposal, you can go about building a more effective organization.