There’s a strong corelation between a motivated employee and high performance. When employees are motivated, they take the effort to do ther jobs well and go beyond what’s expected of them. As a result, they speed up not just their own development but also make an outsized impact on the organization.
But, motivation can ebb and flow – it’s not a constant. As a manager, it’s your job (and your duty) to employ strategies that keep your team members motivated, while supporting and encouraging them when motivation takes a hit. After all, managers need to be developed into effective leaders too!
This article delves into managers’ crucial role in overcoming motivation challenges, with 15 effective ways to increase employee motivation.
What is employee motivation?
Employee motivation drives each team member to put forth their best effort, commitment, and enthusiasm in the workplace. It’s the internal desire and energy that inspires them to achieve their goals, contribute to their organization’s success, and continuously improve their performance. Employee motivation is more than just doing the job — it’s about doing it with passion and a sense of purpose.
Motivated employees are often more focused, dedicated, and efficient, often leading to higher productivity and employee morale. The combination of dedication and a motivating atmosphere creates a more engaging and harmonious work environment for your team.
The need for recognizing individual motivators
On a diverse team, not all employees will be motivated by the same factors. Knowing what inspires and encourages your team is critical to fostering a motivating work environment.
Effective managers employ various strategies to uncover and address the unique motivators of each team member. One approach involves using motivation assessment tools or surveys consisting of questions aimed at gauging an employee’s motivators. These tools provide valuable insights into what inspires and fuels individual employees.
Additionally, regular one-on-one discussions with team members can offer a deeper understanding of their career aspirations, goals, and areas of interest. These conversations create a platform for employees to express their motivations, allowing managers to tailor their support and guidance.
15 ways to motivate employees as a manager
There are many different ways to motivate your employees to keep them engaged with your organization.
1. Keep communication lines open
Honest and transparent communication builds trust with your employees, which can improve employee engagement, innovation, and productivity. It shows employees you’re willing to listen to their concerns and that they can share their honest thoughts without fear of retribution.
To foster honest and open communication, encourage your team to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. During team meetings, give them allotted time to discuss what’s on their mind. Actively listen to what they have to say and acknowledge their input. Make it clear that their opinions matter.
Employees also want to know that you’re open and honest with them. When it’s appropriate, share relevant company information with your team. This may include financial updates, new projects, and long-term strategies.
2. Set clear goals and expectations
Clear goals and expectations give employees a clear direction and purpose. This clarity motivates them to stay focused on their tasks and contribute to achieving these goals. Without it, they’re left unsure of how they’re performing, with no clear path to improve their work.
To set clear goals and expectations, consider using SMART goal-setting:
- Specific: Goals should be clear and specific, leaving no room for ambiguity. Define what you want to achieve, why it’s essential, and who is involved.
- Measurable: Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress and success. This could involve quantifiable metrics, such as revenue targets, project deadlines, or key performance indicators.
- Achievable: Ensure that the goals are realistic and attainable. Consider the available resources, skills, and time frame. Setting unrealistic goals can demotivate employees.
- Relevant: Your team’s goals should closely align with the organization’s overall mission and objectives. They should be relevant to the employee’s role and the company’s long-term vision.
- Time-bound: Assign a clear timeline to each goal. This helps employees prioritize tasks and manage their time effectively.
Provide continuous feedback and support to help employees stay on track. Ongoing communication helps employees stay motivated, focused, and equipped to achieve their goals effectively and efficiently.
3. Create and maintain a culture of rewards and recognition
When employees feel their efforts and accomplishments are acknowledged, it boosts their morale and overall job satisfaction. They feel like their work is appreciated and important to the organization as a whole.
Recognition and rewards also reinforce desired behaviors and outcomes, encouraging employees to repeat those actions.
Consider these rewards and recognitions to show your appreciation for your team:
- Performance bonuses
- Personalized awards
- Personalized thank you notes
- Verbal praise
- Celebrate milestones (like work anniversaries)
By rewarding and recognizing your employees’ unique contributions and celebrating their achievements, you can create a culture of appreciation and motivation in the workplace.
4. Offer mentoring opportunities
Mentoring programs promote both personal and professional development. Mentees can gain insights into their career paths, set goals, and acquire the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. The mentor-mentee relationship encourages continuous learning and development, motivating employees to strive for their best.
Mentoring also gives employees a platform to seek guidance, advice, and wisdom from experienced colleagues, which helps to nurture a supportive workplace culture. When employees know they have access to a mentor, they feel more encouraged to learn, grow, and tackle new challenges.
A well-structured mentoring program can significantly impact employee motivation, job satisfaction, and professional development. It creates an environment where employees are inspired to learn, grow, and perform at their best.
With a mentorship platform like Together, you can:
- Intentionally match mentors and mentees based on each person's skills, goals, and needs to ensure a productive partnership.
- Set clear expectations for both mentors and mentees, outlining their roles, responsibilities, and goals within the mentoring relationship.
- Provide mentor training to help them guide their mentees effectively and share their knowledge and experience.
- Offer nudges for regular check-ins between mentors and mentees, ensuring they meet and discuss progress, challenges, and achievements.
5. Create a positive work environment
Employees who are part of a positive work environment are more likely to perform better. They’re more likely to try harder at their work, even if they find it challenging. The optimism and support of a positive workplace inspire them to do their best, showing resilience and determination in the face of difficulties.
Use positive language in all your communication and meetings with your team to keep them motivated. Positive language helps employees feel valued, appreciated, and motivated, and it can significantly impact their morale and productivity. For example, instead of saying, “This project will be really difficult for you,” try saying, “I believe in your abilities, and I know you’ll do great on this project. If you come across any challenges, feel free to ask for help, and we'll work through them together.”
You can also promote positivity by consistently discussing achievements and good happenings within the team. When addressing potentially negative topics, balance with a positive aspect. Highlighting the team’s collective achievements on a regular basis can also boost individual and group morale.
6. Lead by example
Leading by example is a powerful driver of employee motivation as it sets a standard of behavior and work ethic that employees can emulate. Managers who lead by example create cultures of integrity, dedication, and accountability, where team members are encouraged to follow suit in delivering their best performance.
There are several qualities a manager should embody to lead by example. Here are a few common ones:
- They’re involved: Effective leaders actively participate in tasks and projects alongside their team, demonstrating their commitment to the work and their willingness to share the workload.
- They avoid micromanagement: A good leader trusts their team's abilities and avoids overly controlling or micromanaging. They provide guidance and support to empower employees to make decisions and take ownership.
- They’re adaptable: Adaptable managers embrace change and exhibit flexibility when facing challenges.
- They’re empathetic: Empathetic leaders create a more supportive and understanding work environment, enhancing team morale and motivation.
- They listen: Effective managers actively listen to their employees, seeking to understand their needs, concerns, and suggestions.
Check out our New Manager Mentoring Program Handbook for more tips on developing your managers.
7. Allow for autonomy
Giving your employees more say in their work helps them take ownership. When they can make decisions and be in charge of their tasks, they feel more connected to their job, making them more motivated. It also boosts their confidence and makes them eager to handle new challenges and tasks.
Delegate tasks to your employees to allow them to take on responsibilities and make decisions. When you assign tasks, be sure to set clear expectations. Explain the goals, desired outcomes, and any specific guidelines or requirements. This clarity provides a solid foundation for your employees to work from.
It’s also important to give your team space to ask questions and get clarification when they need it. Foster an open and supportive environment where employees feel comfortable discussing any uncertainties or seeking guidance. Encourage them to voice their thoughts, concerns, and ideas, as this promotes effective communication and collaboration.
This approach empowers employees to take ownership of their work while knowing that support and guidance are readily available.
8. Prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives
DEI initiatives create an inclusive environment where all employees feel they belong, regardless of their backgrounds. When individuals feel valued and included, their motivation to contribute to the organization's success increases. And by prioritizing DEI, your organization is more attractive to a diverse talent pool.
While managers need support from HR and other stakeholders to create changes on a company-wide level, there are things you can do to prioritize DEI within your team.
- Provide diversity training: Offer DEI training and education to all employees to increase their awareness and understanding of diversity and inclusion.
- Use inclusive language: Use and encourage inclusive language in all communications to foster a welcoming and respectful environment for all.
- Adopt diverse hiring practices: Implement diverse and inclusive hiring practices that attract a wide range of talents and backgrounds, ensuring a more diverse and representative workforce.
Company-wide, managers can also advocate for – and help create – employee resource groups (ERGs) that represent diverse communities within the organization.
9. Create a path for career advancement & growth
Growth and career development are two key drivers of employee engagement. The availability of growth opportunities and advancement paths increases employee commitment and dedication to the organization. They are more likely to invest time and energy in their current roles when they see a future within the company.
To help foster growth for your team members, try these tactics:
- Start the conversation: Initiate one-on-one conversations with each team member to understand their career goals and explore ways you can support them in achieving those goals.
- Promote from within: Whenever feasible, prioritize internal promotions to show that career growth and advancement opportunities exist within the organization, encouraging employees to aspire to higher roles.
- Encourage exploring new skills and capabilities: Allow team members to work on projects or shadow activities that align with their personal interests and career objectives, fostering a sense of purpose in their roles.
- Facilitate training and mentorship: Share relevant training and mentorship opportunities that match their individual goals, empowering them to acquire the skills and knowledge needed for their professional development.
10. Promote team building
Engaging in fun and rewarding team-building activities can boost employee morale, increasing job satisfaction and motivation to perform at their best. Team-building activities create a sense of camaraderie among team members, creating positive relationships and a collaborative work environment. It also helps reduce workplace conflicts by establishing a more harmonious work environment.
Try to tailor team-building activities to your team’s specific needs and preferences. Consider factors like the group size and interests. Team activities should be inclusive, allowing all team members to participate and contribute, regardless of physical abilities or other factors.
Offer a variety of team-building activities, including problem-solving challenges, outdoor adventures, and creative projects, to cater to different interests. For remote team-building, try virtual activities like trivia, show-and-tell, or book club.
11. Advocate for competitive compensation
Competitive compensation helps attract top talent and retain existing high-performing employees. When employees are compensated competitively, they are more likely to feel loyal to the organization. The promise of fair pay motivates individuals to stay with — and stay loyal to — their organization.
Competitive compensation starts at the top. To advocate for better pay, work with your HR folks. Create a compelling case for fair compensation that includes data, examples, and the potential consequences of unfair pay practices, such as reduced morale, higher turnover, and recruitment challenges. Highlight the value your team brings to the company. Show how fairly compensating your employees contributes to the organization's success by motivating and retaining top talent.
You can also identify and alert HR of any discrepancies in pay. Conduct a comprehensive review of your team’s compensation to identify any significant discrepancies due to gender, tenure, or other factors. You can offer potential solutions, such as revising salary structures, conducting equity audits, implementing performance-based bonuses, or improving career development opportunities.
12. Encourage innovation
Encouraging innovation stimulates creativity and problem-solving. When employees are motivated to generate new ideas and solutions, they become more innovative in their daily tasks.
You can encourage innovation in a few ways:
- Design thinking workshops: Allow employees time to explore and experiment with their innovative ideas, even if they don’t directly relate to their core responsibilities. Organize design thinking workshops or brainstorming sessions to spark creative thinking and idea generation.
- Cross-functional collaboration: Form cross-functional teams to tackle challenges and collaborate on projects. Diverse perspectives often lead to innovative solutions.
- Continuous learning opportunities: Share opportunities for continuous learning and skill development to stimulate innovation. Encourage employees to draw inspiration from other industries or disciplines and apply creative thinking to their own work.
13. Provide regular feedback
Feedback is crucial because it lets your employees know if their work is helping them meet company goals or if they’re off track and need to adjust. Feedback sessions ensure that expectations are aligned, clarifying goals and objectives. This clarity motivates employees by providing a clear roadmap for success.
When you provide positive and constructive feedback, be candid with your team. Give them specific examples and actionable advice to help them understand where they stand and how to improve. To facilitate this, schedule regular one-on-one meetings, either weekly or bi-weekly.
In these meetings, deliver specific and timely feedback, highlighting achievements and areas for enhancement. Focus on behaviors and outcomes rather than personal traits to keep the discussion constructive.
Keep comprehensive records of these feedback sessions, including notes on accomplishments, challenges, and agreed-upon action steps. This ensures accountability and supports continuous learning.
14. Involve employees in decision-making
Employees who are actively engaged in shaping their work environment and processes are more committed and motivated to perform at their best. It shows you recognize your employees’ expertise and insights which fosters a sense of respect and validation. This motivates employees by acknowledging their valuable contributions.
Implement suggestion boxes or digital platforms where employees can submit ideas and suggestions anonymously. You can also use surveys and questionnaires to gather input on specific topics, such as workplace policies, benefits, or process improvements.
When you pilot new initiatives or products, get input from your employees. Employees can volunteer to be part of the pilot program, or you can designate a few employees based on their skills and interests. Involving employees in these projects can garner valuable insights and make them feel valued and actively engaged in the organization’s growth.
15. Promote a healthy work-life balance
A healthy work-life balance reduces the risk of burnout, ensuring that employees remain energized, motivated, and productive in their roles. A balanced lifestyle leads to improved mental and physical health. Healthy employees are more focused, motivated, and resilient.
Companies prioritizing work-life balance signal that they care about employees’ overall well-being, which can foster a sense of value and appreciation. Some ways to promote a healthy balance include:
- Flexible scheduling: Offer flexible work hours, remote work options, or compressed work weeks to accommodate individual needs.
- Clear boundaries: Encourage employees to establish boundaries between work and personal life, such as setting specific work hours and locations. Suggest that employees unplug from work-related emails and messages during their non-working hours to truly disconnect.
- Wellness programs: Implement wellness programs that support physical and mental health, such as fitness challenges, stress management workshops, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and mental health resources.
Take a forward-thinking approach to challenges and setbacks
Maintaining employee motivation is an ongoing effort that can face various challenges and setbacks. Common workplace challenges can include high turnover and disengaged employees, which can significantly impact an organization's performance and morale. Here’s how to manage them.
High employee turnover can disrupt workflow and increase recruitment costs. To mitigate this issue, it's crucial to conduct thorough exit interviews when employees leave the organization. These interviews help you understand the underlying reasons for their departures. By gathering this feedback, you can make informed improvements.
Disengaged employees can lead to decreased productivity and morale. To re-engage them, it’s important to create a motivating work environment. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement and a sense of belonging, you can reignite the motivation of disengaged team members.
Empowering employee growth via mentorship programs
In the pursuit of a motivated workforce, the role of managers cannot be overstated. From fostering transparent communication to prioritizing diversity and inclusion, each tactic we discussed above contributes to a thriving work environment.
One of the most powerful motivators is a mentorship program. Managers who support and encourage mentorship opportunities provide their team members with valuable guidance and a clear path for advancement. This fosters a strong sense of motivation, as employees recognize that their development and success are actively supported within the organization.