It’s early Monday morning, and your staff sluggishly trickles into the office. Their shoulders are slumped, there are bags under their eyes, and one thing is blatantly clear: No one is motivated to work.
Every manager struggles to keep employees motivated from time to time, but great managers know that employee motivation is key to overall success. While there is no single way to ensure that your employees will stay engaged and inspired, there are a few specific and effective techniques that, when implemented, can have major, lasting effects on workplace motivation and productivity. These six strategies are the best known ways to motivate employees:
1. Foster Open Communication
Having open communication with your staff is crucial to maintaining employee motivation. No one wants to work under a boss he feels uncomfortable approaching. Applying methods of establishing effective communication with your team will do wonders for your staff’s motivation.
Show them you care
A staff member that is invested in her work will naturally have questions, comments, or concerns. Having an open door policy and creating consistently accessible lines of communication will help your staff to feel as though their input matters (which it should!). If having an open door policy is unrealistic for you, it can be just as impactful to dedicate some time during staff meetings for people to voice or write down their concerns for a group discussion.
Always follow up
Following up with your employees regarding their input is equally important as asking them for it. While you may not be able to answer every question, or fix every problem, following up at least demonstrates to employees that you took the time to consider their remarks, rather than ignoring them or sending them on to someone else. Your staff will know that you’re listening to them, and won’t be afraid to come to you again in the future.
2. Create an Agile Work Environment
Another extremely powerful way to uphold employee motivation and engagement is by creating an agile work environment. An “agile work environment” refers to fast-paced project management techniques that place value on constant change and adjustment over adhering to a rigid structure. While this technique is typically used in software development, the principles behind it are demonstrably effective in any industry.
Pick up the pace
In psychology, there is a concept known as the “Pleasure Principle,” which predisposes us as human beings to desire instant gratification over long term rewards. In agile work environments, managers can exploit this facet of human nature by having employees work on projects with the goal of delivering results as quickly and efficiently as possible. A fast paced environment is exciting and inspiring, and employees will naturally be much more engaged in a project that will fulfill this psychological desire for gratification sooner rather than later.
Within an agile work environment, producing both high quantity and high quality work requires a ton of creative thinking. It is important to motivate your staff to take risks and be innovative, even if it means they will make a mistake now and then. One of the virtues of an agile work environment is that when your employees aren’t afraid to fail, they will become more daring, making them more apt to generate work that could potentially set your organization apart from the competition.
3. Be Someone You’d Want to Work For
Whether it’s unrealistic expectations, constant crabbiness, or unapproachability, almost all of us have had that one manager who made work a living nightmare. Even if you love what you do, having a miserable manager can spoil a dream job in record timing. This is why being someone who you’d want to work for is integral to keeping your staff motivated.
It’s been said that smiles are contagious, so if you remain positive and enthused to be at work each day, your staff will follow your lead. People do not want to please someone who is seemingly unpleasable, so being passionate about the work that is being done in your organization is crucial. When you are happy to be at work, your staff will be happy to work for you, and will be motivated to keep the good vibes coming.
Despite our best efforts, we all occasionally fall short of expectations. As a manager, being understanding of the fact that your employees are human beings --- not programmable robots --- is necessary to keeping them motivated. An employee that is afraid to admit to her manager when she makes a mistake is not going to be comfortable in her position. On the other hand, if that same employee knows that her manager will be sympathetic to the situation, she will be happy to get her work done, knowing that someone is there to support her whenever she needs it.
Get to know your team
Having a one-on-one relationship with your staff members will make you more personable in their eyes, and will help you better understand your team to find what it is that motivates each person individually. Having individual relationships with staff members will also help dissolve the barrier in their minds that separates you from them. When your staff members feel they have a personal connection with you, they will be motivated to not let you down. A study by Stefan Stürmer of the University of Kiel shows that people are more likely to help out those they perceive to be “like them,” so making an effort to show you are as much a part of the team as the folks you manage will have a profound psychological effect on how they view the work they are doing for you.
4. Incentivize the Workplace
Providing incentives or rewards for completion of certain goals is a great way to get your staff to go above and beyond with their work. Making their jobs both gratifying and fun is sure to boost employee motivation.
Make work fun
Many employers have implemented a strategy called “gamification,” which involves applying game-like concepts to ordinary work tasks in order to generate enthusiasm and create friendly competition in the workplace. Google implemented a great example of this strategy through what is called the “Google Code Jam,” where the company organizes a coding competition in order to fish out potential hires.
While not every organization can (or needs to) gamify something like their hiring process, things as simple as a game of bingo for sales representatives to motivate them to sell bigger ticket items will make work feel more like play. You will be surprised at how competitive your staff will become over a reward as simple as a $10 gift card or an afternoon off (and, of course, bragging rights).
Reward people for hard work
Rewarding your employees for hard work is decisive in how motivated they will be. Recognizing them for their achievements can be cost effective, too --- you don’t have to use monetary rewards or even spend money on a prize. Deloitte turned to a software that helps incentivize workplace tasks by providing employees the opportunity to appear on leadership boards or earn badges in exchange for completing a task. Providing your staff with ongoing opportunities to be recognized for their onerous efforts will keep them motivated over longer periods of time.
5. Encourage Workplace Camaraderie
The average full time adult employee spends 40 hours a week in the same office, with the same people. As a manager, making sure your employees are happy with the people they work with is extremely important to keeping them motivated and on task.
Focus on team bonding
You can foster positive employee relationships through team bonding exercises, whether it be starting off each day with a staff meeting or planning a bowling night once a month. Focusing on making sure your employees are friendly with each other makes them better at communicating, and thus, better at resolving issues without your assistance.
Manage employee conflicts personally
Conflict in the workplace is not always preventable. If an issue should arise between members of your staff, you want to be available to your employees so they can bring it to your attention promptly. Being unbiased and fair when dealing with two employees will help you resolve the issue quickly, and will help your staff redirect their focus away from the drama and back to what’s important.
6. Invest in Your Employees’ Happiness
Happier people are more productive, according to the Social Market Foundation and the University of Warwick's Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy. Making sure your employees feel good about coming to work will motivate them to work harder.
Respect their work-life balance
Overworked employees will not be motivated to produce quality results. Hence, respecting that your employees have a life outside of work is vital to boosting their motivation. Your staff members will be much happier if they feel comfortable asking for a day off to focus on self-care, or if they know you will understand if they have a family emergency (something that also relies on having a positive individual relationship with each staff member).
As a manager, it may seem arbitrary to express gratitude every single time an employee does his job correctly. In fact, it isn’t just arbitrary --- it's unreasonable! However, taking the time to recognize even minor achievements by members of your team can do wonders for their motivation. It is easy to overlook the day to day tasks that keep your organization moving, and in turn, easy to overlook the people that work tirelessly to complete these tasks.
People love to feel appreciated, so occasionally taking the time to send a personalized “thank you” someone’s way can make all the difference. In the words of Wal Mart founder Sam Walton, "Appreciate everything your associates do. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They're absolutely free and worth a fortune."
Employee motivation is an indispensable aspect to success and productivity -- something that no amount of coffee can make up for. Following these guidelines will help you cultivate motivation and enthusiasm in the workplace.
Melissa is a recent graduate of Northeastern University and a content marketing specialist at Repsly, Inc. She is committed to applying her skills in order to bring value to Repsly readers and customers. Outside of work, Melissa enjoys practicing yoga, making music, and anything dog-related.