How to Motivate Employees: 13 Simple Ways

Motivation is at the heart of employee productivity and retention. Organizations with highly motivated and engaged workers are 21 percent more profitable, but only 19 percent of employees consider themselves “very engaged.” Employers need to know how to motivate employees, or they risk falling behind their competitors.


This article offers 13 effective ways to motivate employees by focusing on critical aspects of your organization, such as culture, recognition, and feedback.

1. Build a culture that motivates employees daily

To sustain employee motivation over the long term, you need to develop a culture that supports all team members and inspires them to bring their best on a daily basis. Otherwise, even the most enthusiastic employees will find their motivation waning. Almost all job seekers — 88 percent — consider culture as an important factor when deciding where to work, and the culture of an organization is a top factor that impacts employee satisfaction. Entrepreneurs know that a great culture leads to improved employee performance across the organization — 86 percent have seen a link between culture and productivity.


There are a few steps any organization can follow to build a culture that motivates employees and means business. Start with identifying traits you want your culture to exemplify and that your employees will value, then get your leadership on board with building that culture. This second step is key, as almost half of employees say leadership is “minimally” or “not at all” committed to improving organizational culture. Once leaders start actively focusing on culture by implementing and participating in cultural initiatives, your employees will feel more connected to your company’s values and mission. Ensure your team members can weather difficult times and remain motivated all-year round by maintaining culture continuity.

2. Take advantage of the motivational power of recognition

Research shows that recognition is one of the most effective ways to motivate employees. 80 percent of employees say that recognition is a strong source of motivation, and 90 percent say that receiving recognition motivates them to work harder. However, many companies continue to neglect recognition: a lack of recognition is the third most common reason employees choose to leave an organization.


Any recognition strategy needs to incorporate both monetary and social recognition. According to a report by Aptitude Research Partners, organizations using social recognition have 40 percent higher employee productivity compared to organizations not using it.


Here are some recognition best practices to help you start using it as a key motivator:

  • Recognition should be provided frequently — not just during work anniversaries — and in the moment.
  • Any time you send a recognition, be specific and transparent when describing the key behavior demonstrated. This is extremely important because 92 percent of employees agree when they’re recognized for a specific action, they’re more likely to take that action again in the future.
  • Tie recognition to company values to show employees that those values are more than just words and incentivize employees to practice them.
  • Consider using a points system for rewards, which allows employees to redeem their points for a reward of their choosing that they find meaningful.
  • Finally, use an employee recognition platform so your team members can provide recognition from anywhere, whether they’re on desktop or mobile. You should also leverage data insights to properly measure and adjust your recognition program for optimal success.

3. Collect and respond to employee feedback

Employees are far more motivated when they have a voice. 73 percent of employees who feel heard by employers say that they are motivated to perform their best work, and 90 percent of workers are more likely to stay at a company that listens to and acts on feedback.


Collecting feedback frequently gives employees a chance to express themselves and makes them feel valued. Use employee pulse surveys to get a check on how your employees are feeling and see whether your motivational efforts are succeeding. You can also implement a workplace chatbot that provides an always-on channel for employees to confidentially share feedback.


Listening to employee feedback is just the first step; employers need to take visible actions addressing it. After conducting and closing your employee pulse survey, set aside time to measure and analyze the results carefully. What are employees telling you? How do results compare to the last study? What trends are you seeing? Consider the response rate, evaluate the data as well as the comments, and review with managers and leaders. When an employee sees that their feedback has an actual impact on business decisions, they know that their voice matters and they’ll continue to provide honest, valuable feedback.


4. Focus your leaders on motivation

Employees look to management to steer the organization and rely on them to make the right decisions for the business. Because of this trust, leaders have a significant impact on employee motivation. “The quality of senior leadership” is one of the top two factors of employee satisfaction, but only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.


Emphasizing that leaders need to prioritize and understand how to motivate employees is the first step. Once the leadership team is on the same page, there’s no lack of opportunities for them to start motivating employees, and one of the best is recognizing team members. Receiving praise or a reward from your manager or another leader can make a huge impact. A Gallup workplace survey revealed nearly one-quarter of employees said the most memorable recognition comes from a high-level leader or CEO. The more that leaders recognize employees publicly, the more likely it is employees will feel valued and motivated.


Coaching is another way that managers can build stronger teams and boost employee motivation. Practicing workplace coaching ensures that managers understand the importance of their role in guiding and developing employees, and it helps them improve core skills like observation and communication. It also directly speaks to millennials’ desire to have a different type of relationship with managers.

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