Motivating employees is a tough task for many leaders. Some don’t know where to start, or write off unmotivated employees as a lost cause. But strategies to increase motivation are important, as employee ambition and determination are the driving forces behind business success.
Leaders who struggle motivating their employees often fail to realize the link between employee engagement and motivation. Without strong engagement levels, employees lack motivation to perform at their best. When employees lack motivation, they’re often disengaged. And vice versa—when employees are disengaged, they’re probably not motivated to give their best. Tackle your motivation problems head on by assessing and adjusting the employee experience to increase engagement.
Employee engagement vs. employee motivation
Employee engagement is the strength of the mental and emotional connection that employees feel toward the work they do. Employee motivation is an employees’ will to do something. With high employee engagement, employee motivation and productivity surges.
Employee engagement helps intrinsically motivate employees to perform better. When employees are aligned and connected to their work, team, and organization, they are likely to have an internal drive that generates business results.
While employees can gain motivation from external factors such as deadlines and pay raises, it’s more effective to focus on employee engagement to boost motivation. When employees take ownership over their work because they like their job, they are less likely to burn out and more likely to be self-motivated.
What is the manager’s role in employee motivation?
Leaders have an integral role in employee motivation. They shape many factors in the employee experience. Effective leaders regularly assess and adjust the employee experience with the goal of building engagement. And when these efforts are successful, organizations are likely to celebrate a highly motivated workforce.
By understanding each employee’s ambitions, managers can effectively align ambitions with work. Leverage consistent feedback and recognition throughout an employees’ tenure to help them grow and feel valued. Managers who communicate transparently and continuously will boost employees’ connection to their work and, in turn, increase motivation.
Why are employee engagement and motivation important?
Strong employee motivation and engagement are critical to the health and success of your organization. In fact, engaged employees are 69 percent more likely to be productive. With a disengaged and unmotivated workforce, productivity plummets and business outcomes are less common. Leaders need to shape their motivation strategies around employee engagement for optimal performance.
30 employee motivation and engagement strategies
- Outline expectations.
Expectations for your workforce should be obvious, as employees struggle to build motivation for tasks that are unclear. Without clarity, employees can’t focus on performing diligently. Discuss your expectations with employees and encourage them to ask questions when they arise.
- Share important information.
When you update employees on business happenings, they are more aligned with their organization. And employees need this alignment to feel connected with their work to produce peak results. Don’t hesitate to leverage consistent transparency in your conversations. Be transparent and share openly to engaged employees and get buy-in into company and team goals and initiatives.
- Create an engaging onboarding experience.
Employees need to be effectively introduced to and immersed in your workplace. When your onboarding process is lacking, employees often face roadblocks to productivity that actively demotivate them.
- Prevent burnout and overwork.
Employees need to be given boundaries that support a healthy work-life balance. Encourage employees to take time for themselves and to log off after the workday to create a motivated and productive workforce in the long-term.
- Set a positive example.
Model the behavior that you would like your employees to adopt. When employees see motivated leaders, they can reflect that behavior in their own actions.
- Welcome feedback.
Employees like to feel heard. They have valuable perceptions that give insight into needed improvements in the employee experience. When these perceptions go unnoticed or are ignored, employees often like their opinions don’t matter to leadership. Ask for feedback to make employees feel valued and connected to the business.
- Form meaningful relationships.
Workplace relationships matter. When employees have a strong connection with team members, they want to produce meaningful results that drive the overall success of their team and organization.
- Talk about long-term goals.
Leaders need to understand employees' ambitions and goals. Have regular growth conversations to recognize what motivates your employees to provide a stimulating employee experience.
- Offer opportunities for training and development.
Provide regular growth and development opportunities. Not only does this help employees improve in their role, it makes them feel invested in and important to the organization’s success.
- Provide constructive feedback.
When performance is lacking, employees should understand what they are doing wrong, and how they can improve. When this feedback is provided, employees are motivated and on a realistic path to success.
- Prioritize internal hires.
Show your appreciation for hard work and professional improvement by leveraging internal promotions or role changes. When employees feel they have something to strive for, their motivation increases.
- Let employees create their own work-life balance.
A healthy work-life balance looks different for everyone. Let employees shape their experience by leveraging remote, hybrid, and in-person environments. This helps prevent possible burnout and low motivation.
- Provide appropriate recognition and rewards.
Make your employees feel valued for great effort and results through spoken and written recognition or rewards. This will motivate employees in their future initiatives.
- Encourage employees to set realistic goals.
Goals set the groundwork for employee results. When goals are manageable and achievable, employees are better motivated to pursue them.
- Consider different personalities and work styles.
To effectively support all employees, managers need to understand that everyone is different. A process that works for one employee may not work for another. Be accepting of your employees’ personalities and work styles, when appropriate, to aid their success.
- Create a positive workplace environment.
You should create a working environment that your employees enjoy. From providing needed technology to outlining accepted behaviors in the office, employees should feel comfortable at the workplace, remote or not.
- Leverage employee surveys.
Employee surveys give insight into the perceptions of your workforce to make changes when needed. In these surveys, employees can help you understand what is motivating or demotivating them.
- Coach rather than control employees
No employee likes to feel micromanaged. Rather, they like to feel trusted to generate positive results. Coach employees toward success by giving constructive tips and tools that support their growth.
- Set a strong vision that gives insight into the bigger picture.
Your employees should understand how their efforts support big business initiatives. When employees know the “why” behind their actions, they are better motivated toward success.
- Leverage exit interviews.
Exit interviews help leaders understand why employees leave. With this information, leaders can make changes in the employee experience to motivate their employees moving forward.
- Schedule regular 1-on-1s.
Regular 1-on-1s between managers and their employees are important. This opens up the discussion for roadblock reduction and feedback to help employees accomplish their goals.
- Prioritize DEI initiatives.
Treat employees equally regardless of their background. Celebrate employees’ differences and support them in a way that recognizes their differences. When employees feel understood and accepted, they are more motivated to produce great results for the organization.
- Schedule meetings sparingly.
While meetings are often essential for alignment, too many meetings can make employees feel burned out. Plus, when employees’ schedules are saturated with meetings, they have less time to complete their day-to-day tasks.
- Recognize who’s at risk for turnover.
Understand the tell-tale signs that an employee is burnt-out and thinking about leaving. Being proactive can help you motivate these employees before it’s too late.
- Create a channel for employees to ask questions.
Confusion serves as a common roadblock to productivity. When employees feel lost, ensure there are outlets for them to ask questions or receive guidance that motivates them.
- Encourage employees to create employee resource groups.
A great way to connect and align employees is by encouraging them to create employee resource groups with people who have similar interests or backgrounds to them. When employees can find common ground to create meaningful relationships, they are more comfortable and motivated in the workplace.
- Get out of the office.
Leverage team bonding activities outside of the office when possible to further drive your workplace relationships. These can help you understand personality styles to work more effectively together.
- Challenge employees, but let them utilize their strengths.
The best recipe to engage and motivate employees is to give them challenging tasks that rely on their strengths. Support professional growth and enable employees to leverage their skills with challenging work that they enjoy.
- Encourage employee autonomy.
Let your employees have ownership over their work. When employees feel they have control over their work situation, they are more accountable for their responsibilities.
- Be tactful and considerate.
When employees have requests that you cannot support, like extra time off or a raise, communicate tactfully with their feelings in mind. When employees feel respected by their managers, that respect is reflected in employees’ behaviors. And motivation skyrockets when a common respect exists between leaders and employees.
Engaging and motivating remote employees
It’s essential to adjust the employee experience to support remote employees. Create your engagement strategies with your remote workforce in mind to drive motivation.
Rather than copying in-person practices to increase engagement, consider how these experiences will affect remote employees. If the outcome is increased alignment, for example, implement practices that create that same outcome for remote employees.
Don’t expect your initiatives to directly translate to the remote environment. Create a continuous listening strategy to help you understand what is or isn’t motivating and engaging remote employees.
How employee engagement software can help
Employee engagement software can provide the tools that help you streamline your engagement initiatives. Organizations who leverage these platforms can better practice the strategies that motivate their workforce.
- 1-on-1s provide a template for effective employee-leader conversations. A great platform lets you outline and record key points to optimize your conversations.
- Employee surveys are leveraged to gain insight into your workforce’s perceptions. An effective platform provides an outlet for all employees to share their thoughts for organizational improvement.
- Flight risk analysis tools call out who’s at risk for turnover. With this valuable information, you can focus on motivating these employees to prevent their departure.
- Employee feedback tools let your employees’ voices be heard. The right platform will provide an outlet for employees and managers to share their opinions to support employee, team, and business growth.
- An employee recognition platform helps employees feel valued for their contributions. Leverage a platform that elevates your recognition to the entire organization to increase alignment and motivate employees in their future initiatives.
- Goals create a realistic path to employee, team, and business success. Your platform should provide key metrics and timelines for goals that are displayed to the entire organization. When employees have accountability and ownership over their goals, they are likely to be motivated to accomplish them.
Ready to motivate your talent toward high performance? Check out our ebook for effective performance management.