You’re a business leader. You believe in your company with all your heart. Your commitment to the organization’s mission drives you to aim high, work hard, and put in your best effort. However, that’s not the case with your workforce. You want your team to be as dedicated as you are, but employee motivation doesn’t happen by chance. And that’s where leaders too often miss the mark.
In an article about employee appreciation, Harvard Business Review briefly illustrates the problem:
An employee arrives at work on his 10th-year anniversary and finds a gift card with a sticky note on his desk. The note is from his manager, acknowledging his anniversary. Realizing the message doesn’t include a thank-you or congratulations, he rolls his eyes.
This missed opportunity speaks volumes. Just imagine the cumulative impact on morale when this kind of scenario plays out on a regular basis.
Layoffs continue to capture headlines as the economy sputters. Nevertheless, employers are still vying for qualified talent so they can stay competitive. But no one can effectively attract and retain stellar people without inspiring them. And the ability to inspire depends on your willingness to motivate people on an ongoing basis.
Connecting Motivation With Business Benefits
The power of motivation is undeniable. It directly influences multiple business metrics. For example, it can:
- Boost Productivity and Profitability
Because motivated employees are more engaged with their work, they tend to be more productive and deliver higher-quality results. In fact, research says highly engaged teams can increase business profitability by more than 20%.
- Reduce Absenteeism and Turnover
When motivation and engagement are low, people are more likely to call in sick or resign. The cost of both can be steep. On the other hand, Gallup says organizations with high engagement see significant benefits, with an average of 81% lower absenteeism and 43% lower turnover.
- Improve Collaboration and Innovation
Motivated people typically are more content with their jobs. As a result, they’re more open to teamwork and collaboration, which leads to better problem-solving and innovation. They also tend to be more efficient and willing to go above and beyond to achieve business objectives.
Most leaders understand the value of motivation. But motivating people is easier said than done. What can you do to fuel employee motivation? When work starts piling up and engagement is at a low ebb, try these 8 ideas to engage your team and steer them toward success:
8 Ways to Inspire Employee Motivation
1. Communicate the Big Picture
Regularly sharing information about your organization’s vision, goals, challenges, and achievements helps people feel more invested in its success. Here are some effective ways to keep people in the loop:
- Articulate Your Expectations: This is essential. Unless people know how you define success, and understand how it relates to their roles and output, they have no way to gauge their status or progress.
- Set Objectives Collaboratively: Work together to set clear, achievable objectives. This helps people grasp the purpose behind their work and how it fits into the company’s broader mission and strategy.
- Provide Periodic Business Updates: Keep employees informed about how the organization is performing to plan. This is also an opportunity not only to focus on key issues but also to celebrate successes and milestones. Keep in mind that timely, specific public recognition is one of the most effective ways to motivate people.
2. Seek Employee Input
It’s easy to become so focused on top-down communication that you may overlook the value of employee input and feedback. Asking employees direct questions during a group meeting or private conversation lets them know you care about their opinions and are open to their ideas and concerns.
It’s also helpful to periodically gauge overall employee satisfaction and engagement by conducting anonymous surveys. This is an opportunity to remind people that their opinions matter. Ask for feedback about what needs improvement and suggestions for how to improve.
Of course, any input you receive deserves swift attention and action. A timely, thoughtful response tells employees you value their feedback. It’s also a way to demonstrate the kind of loyalty you hope they’ll return by doing their best.
3. Give People Autonomy
Handing employees some control over their work can be a highly effective motivator. This can be as simple as giving people a chance to work on projects they love or letting them choose a schedule they prefer from a variety of options.
When employees have a voice in defining their priorities and daily activities, they’re more likely to feel committed to their work and invested in their results.
4. Reward Success
People will sign up for your mission and stay with your business when you give them a reason to care. And recognizing their efforts is one of the most effective ways to build this kind of connection.
For example, implementing an employee incentive program is relatively straightforward strategy:
- Focus first on how to align rewards with company values and goals.
- For each level of achievement assign appropriate awards, such as crystal trophies and cash bonuses, as well as certificates and verbal recognition.
- Establish clear, attainable criteria for receiving awards, and regularly share program guidelines with everyone who is eligible.
- Build peer-to-peer recognition into the process, so employees can nominate colleagues for recognition.
- Celebrate achievements publicly to increase visibility and inspire others.
- Regularly review and update your incentive program to keep it fresh and relevant.
5. Foster a Positive Work Environment
Formal recognition isn’t the only way to shape employee attitudes and behavior. For instance, leaders can also make a significant impact on employee morale and motivation simply by fostering an open, supportive work environment. This includes:
- Work structures and processes that encourage teamwork and collaboration,
- Programs and policies that promote work-life balance, and
- Opportunities for employees to socialize and form strong bonds.
The important thing to remember here is that, even in small companies, work cultures are complex. The status quote won’t change overnight. If your culture needs to shift, prepare to be intentional and consistent. It may take time, but you’ll be rewarded with lasting business impact.
6. Offer Opportunities for Professional Growth
What better way to motivate people than to enrich their professional knowledge and skills? Especially if your business is expanding rapidly, giving people opportunities to learn, develop, and grow within your organization can be a tremendous incentive.
There are many ways to help people expand their capabilities beyond formal training. For example, consider adding stretch assignments, cross-training, educational reimbursement, mentorships, and internal career advancement to the mix.
7. Lead With Encouragement
Every day brings new opportunities to help employees overcome inevitable mistakes and failures. By encouraging people to focus on continuous improvement, you can help them develop a positive mindset and the determination to see things through.
When projects don’t go according to plan, resist the temptations to start by investigating whose to blame. Instead, focus on working together to identify the root cause and solve the problem. During difficult times, remember to tell people you trust them or send a supportive email message. And be sure to reinforce anyone who takes accountability and steps up to the challenge.
8. Remain Available
No matter how busy your schedule is, make it a priority to be responsive when anyone needs help or advice. Can you blame an employee for becoming frustrated and demotivated if you’re never available to offer guidance, assistance, or approval?
Here’s a sign that you may need to adjust your standards: Think about your one-on-one meetings. Do you regularly postpone these sessions, or blow them off altogether? Don’t be surprised if productivity and engagement are suffering.
A Final Word on Employee Motivation
Any leader who wants to elevate organizational performance and productivity should start with employee motivation. There are multiple ways to move in the right direction, but here’s the bottom line:
If you want employees to commit to your organization, you’ll need to commit your time, attention, and effort to motivate them on a continuous basis. This is clearly a long-game process, but the journey can be one of the most rewarding investments your business will ever make.