Employee Motivation: A Complete Guide To Boosting It

For many of us, showing up to the same job every day and repeating the same tasks we’ve done for years can be quite tedious. Think about it — if employees aren’t being stimulated and challenged in their work, how can we expect them to be productive and engaged?

It’s no secret that employee motivation is key to a productive and successful workplace. Yet, for many employers, it can be difficult to know how to go about boosting employee motivation. This is especially true in larger companies; employees grow stagnant and fall under the radar, making it difficult to single out those who need a little push.

So, how can we go about boosting employee motivation in our workplaces? This guide will provide you with all the information you need to get started. We’ll be covering:

Ready? Let’s get started!

What does it mean to motivate your employees?

Employee motivation isn’t just about writing motivational quotes on the walls and sending “Happy Monday!” emails to your team. It’s about creating an environment in which employees feel appreciated, supported, and challenged. When employees feel motivated, they’re more productive and engaged in their work.

When we think of motivation, we often connect it with words like inspiration, enthusiasm, or excitement. But it’s not just about feeling good. True motivation comes from a sense of purpose, and it’s what helps us achieve our goals.

Just look at the word ‘motivation’ itself; it literally means the act of giving something or someone a motive. In the workplace, this means providing employees with a sufficient motive to do their jobs.

employee motivation shown by two people

Depending on how you deliver the motivation, you can give your employees a motive to go above and beyond or to simply do the bare minimum. (If not careful, you can even motivate them to quit!)

That’s why it’s important to know exactly how to motivate your employees — the right way. Let’s get into it.

Benefits of employee motivation

Investing in employee motivation can take time, effort, and in some cases, money — so what’s the payoff?

The benefits of a motivated workforce are vast and far-reaching. When employers choose to invest in the motivation of their employees, they aren’t just helping the individuals reach their potential — they’re also benefiting the company as a whole.

The need for motivation

When it comes to employee engagement and motivation, the statistics tell a pressing story:

  • Only 15 percent of employees are engaged globally.
  • Eighty-seven percent of employees expect that their employers will provide work-life balance opportunities.
  • Eighty-one percent of employees are considering resignation in favor of a better, more motivating opportunity.
  • When offered a corporate program, however, 66 percent of employees are incentivized to stay with their current company.

Clearly, there is a disconnection between what employees want and what employers are delivering. When employers get it right, however, the benefits are immense:

Clearly, motivation is key to a productive and profitable workforce. Let’s take a look at a few more key benefits of employee motivation:

Improved communication

When employees feel motivated, they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their work. Not only does this empower them to share their ideas and suggestions, but it also encourages them to communicate more effectively with their team members.

Boosted creativity

Motivation is a powerful driver of creativity. It gives employees a new sense of purpose and the enthusiasm to experiment with new ideas. What this means for employers is that they can tap into a wealth of creativity and innovation when their employees feel motivated.

a person drawing

Heightened morale

Appreciated and supported employees are noticeably happier in their roles. This improved morale often trickles down to other areas of the business, resulting in a more positive and productive work environment.

Increased productivity

A motivated workforce is undoubtedly a more productive one, as employees are driven to achieve their goals and produce great work. With a motivated team, employers can expect to see an increase in productivity across the board.

With these many benefits in mind, it’s easy to see why employers should make employee motivation a priority. However, achieving this goal is not always easy. Let’s take a look at some proven methods for boosting employee motivation.

Factors that contribute to employee motivation

Before one can begin to work on motivating their employees, it’s crucial to understand what factors contribute to employee motivation in the first place. The most common factors that influence motivation are:

1. Purposeful work

Have you ever tried to put effort into a task that feels completely meaningless? It’s not exactly a recipe for motivation — in fact, it’s the opposite. This is why companies that continually bolster their employees’ sense of purpose in their work see higher levels of productivity and motivation.

Of course, work can’t always be fulfilling. Sometimes it’s downright boring, as is the fluctuating nature of most jobs. In these cases, companies that instill a sense of ownership and pride in their employees are more successful in motivating them.

2. Autonomy

People want to feel like they’re in control of their lives. They want to know that they have some say in what they do and how they do it, and this is where autonomy comes in. Giving your workforce control over their work not only empowers them but also makes them feel more invested in their job.

You can tell when a workplace has evaporated all sense of autonomy; employees are usually disengaged, uninterested, and lackluster. They do the bare minimum to get by. Conversely, workplaces that encourage employees to take ownership of their work tend to have more creative and enthusiastic workers.

a person thinking of employee motivation while looking up

3. Feedback and recognition

You’ll be unsurprised to hear that feedback motivates people — it’s one of the most common techniques used by managers in an attempt to motivate their team. But what might surprise you is that positive recognition works even better than feedback.

Employees want to feel appreciated for their efforts, and they want to know that their work is making a difference. Recognition is a sure-fire way to make them feel both of these things.

4. A sense of belonging

People are social creatures. We want to feel like we belong, that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves. This is especially true in the workplace, where people often spend more time than they do with their families.

Creating a sense of community and camaraderie in the workplace is one of the best ways to boost employee motivation. You can do this by organizing social events, setting up a mentorship program, or simply encouraging employees to talk to one another.

5. Challenging work

As humans, we thrive upon being challenged. In our personal lives, for instance, having a new hobby invigorates us and forces us to learn new things. The same principle applies in the workplace.

Challenging work keeps employees engaged and motivated. They’re constantly learning and evolving, which is energizing. And, as we all know, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as mastering a skill.

These are just five of many factors that contribute to employee motivation — but they are undoubtedly some of the most important. If you’re looking to boost motivation in your workplace, start by addressing these areas.

a person using their laptop while sitting on the stairs

How to identify unmotivated employees

If you’ve decided that your employees are motivated enough, that’s great — but how can you actually tell this is the case? What are some of the red flags to keep an eye out for? Let’s run through a few of the most common signs that your team might be struggling:

  • Low productivity or lack of innovation. Have you noticed that your team is less inclined to come up with new ideas, or that they’re not producing as much work as they used to? This could be a sign that they’re feeling unmotivated; they may feel like they’re not being challenged or that their work isn’t important.
  • Poor attendance or low morale. If team members are calling in sick more than usual, it’s time to raise the alarm. No wonder they’re not in attendance — they have no motivation to come to work! Low morale could also manifest as a general feeling of unhappiness or dissatisfaction among employees.
  • Disengaged or hostile behavior. Though less common than the signs listed above, disengaged or hostile behavior can be a sign that employees are feeling unmotivated. Hostile employees might be argumentative or disruptive, while disengaged employees might seem apathetic or uninterested in their work.
  • Obvious sadness, boredom, or restlessness. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. If your employees look like they’re not enjoying themselves, it’s probably a sign that they need some motivation.
  • Poor work quality. Finally, the standard of work being put out is an easy way to tell whether or not employees are motivated. Low-quality work could be a sign that they don’t care about their job, while sloppy work could be a sign that they’re overworked and stressed out.

If you identify any of these signs in your workplace, it’s time to take some action! The following tips will help you boost employee motivation and get your team back on track.

Boosting employee motivation, step-by-step

We’ve reached the how-to section — are you ready to boost your team’s motivation? Here are the practical take-home steps you can follow to get started:

1. Understand what’s lacking.

Low motivation doesn’t always come from the same source, as we discussed in the previous section. To address it, you’ll need to first understand what’s causing your team to lack enthusiasm.

three managers talking about how they can increase employee motivation

Some factors that could be at play:

  • Are team members not feeling challenged in their work?
  • Do they feel like their voice isn’t being heard?
  • Do they not feel like their work matters?
  • Are they not getting along with their colleagues?

You can find this out by conducting a survey, or by simply observing how team members are interacting and working. If you’ve got plenty of time to invest, you can also sit down with each individual team member to get a better idea of what’s motivating them (or not).

2. Decide your course of action.

Based on what you discover in step one, you’ll need to decide on a course of action to manage your team better. This might involve changes to the team’s workload, their environment, or their communication style.

If team members feel unchallenged in their work, for example, you could give them new and more difficult tasks to complete. If they feel like their voice isn’t being heard, you could start holding regular meetings where everyone has a chance to contribute.

Here are a few common issues and some possible solutions:

  • Lack of recognition: Rewarding and appreciating team members for a job well done can go a long way in boosting their motivation. You could do this with things like bonus payments, public praise, or simply giving them more responsibility.
  • Boredom: If team members are finding their work monotonous, you could try to rotate their tasks more often or give them new challenges to work on.
  • Poor communication: This can be a major source of frustration for team members, and can quickly lead to low motivation levels. Try to establish better communication channels within the team, and make sure everyone is kept up to date with what’s going on.

Whatever the issue is, imagine what you’d ask of your boss if you were the one struggling with low motivation. Then, try to provide that same level of support and guidance to your team.

two people sitting across each other while talking

3. Set clear goals.

When team members know what they’re working toward, and they can see how their individual efforts contribute to the larger goal, it’s a major motivator. That’s why setting goals is so important — it gives employees a sense of purpose and direction.

Make sure your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. And remember to keep them updated as the team progresses; there’s nothing more demotivating than working towards a goal that’s no longer relevant.

Here’s an example of a SMART goal: “By the end of the month, we want to have increased our sales by 10%.”

A goal like this goes a long way in improving motivation levels, regardless of the underlying issues.

4. Encourage open communication.

You’ll find that many motivational problems can be directly traced back to poor communication. That’s because there’s nothing quite so frustrating — and devaluing — as feeling unheard or ignored. (Or worse, silenced).

Encourage open communication within the team by establishing clear channels of communication, and make sure everyone is kept up to date with what’s going on. Your aim here is to create an environment where team members feel comfortable voicing their concerns and sharing their ideas.

5. Lead by example.

As the leader of the team, it’s your responsibility to set the tone and show team members what’s expected of them. If you’re constantly stressing out or complaining, for example, team members will quickly get the message that this is how they’re supposed to behave.

Instead, try to be positive and upbeat. Lead by example. Show team members that you’re excited about the work you’re doing, and that you believe in them.

6. Keep checking in.

The final step is to keep checking in with team members to make sure they’re still feeling motivated. This could involve conducting regular surveys, holding one-on-one meetings, or simply keeping an eye on their body language and how they’re interacting with others.

If you notice that someone seems to be struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask them what’s going on. The last thing you want is for team members to start feeling unmotivated and disengaged.

employee motivation shown in four people

Final thoughts

The workplace hasn’t always been an employee-friendly environment. In the early days of the industrial revolution, employees were little more than cogs in a machine, working long hours for little pay and no benefits.

Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then — and as we’ve discussed in this article, there are plenty of ways to boost employee motivation. All you need is a willingness to listen, experiment, and find what works best for your team.

So, get started today and see how you and your team can start thriving in a more motivated workplace!