Traditionally, the only two tools used to motivate employees have been a carrot and a stick. But more and more research indicates that ‘sticks’ are counter-productive ways to drive up employee performance – and few businesses can afford to hand out ‘carrots’ all the time!
The good news is that there are more ways to motivate your employees – and the even better news is that these methods can be both less expensive and more fun! All you need to do is keep an eye on the 5 keys to employee motivation:
- The working environment;
- And rewards.
Read on to find out how these simple factors can keep your entire workforce working hard and feeling good.
#1 Motivating Leadership
If the goal of motivating your employees is central to everything you do as a leader, then many aspects of quality leadership will follow naturally. You will work closely with your staff, supporting their ideas and setting aside time each day to listen. You will act as a role model, setting examples for your employees regarding your accountability and what you expect of yourself. You will set clear, attainable goals for your staff, so they know what exactly what you expect of them – and what support they can expect from you.
Almost nothing wrecks an employee’s motivation like a distant, unaccountable boss who seems to have no idea what it’s like actually to work for your company – so if you want results from your staff, you need to be the accountable.
#2 Motivating Individuals
Try starting from the assumption that every single one of your employees is a skilled person who is dedicated to helping your business succeed and has the creative ideas to make a real difference. Treat them like you treat your investors (or would if you had any!). Provide them with real, tangible information on how their work impacts the business, rather than just data on how many hours they’ve worked or how many calls they’ve made.
Every aspect of work, even getting up in the morning to go to work, feels easier and more meaningful if you feel valued as an individual than if you feel easily replaceable. By making sure every employee knows how they contribute to the success of your business, you give them a stake in that success and a reason to work for it. What’s more, by valuing each employee as an individual with a different background and experience, you will foster a working environment that welcomes diversity and thrives as a result.
#3 Motivating Teams
Encourage team working by giving your employees opportunities to get to know one another. This doesn’t have to mean a dreaded ‘team-building weekend’. You could organize a lunchtime potluck or bake-off, or encourage team celebrations of employees’ career achievements or personal milestones. Even scheduling short breaks so employees can interact is a great way to build team spirit. Finding friendly ways for your staff to compete within or between their workplace teams is another great way to build camaraderie.
When we work as part of a diverse team, we’re more productive, more creative and we’re constantly reminded of what we’re working toward. Fostering trust and healthy competition among your employees is a great way to build motivation and keep everyone pulling in the same direction.
#4 A Motivating Work Environment
Being a listening leader means staying on top of the daily gripes and worries that can grind down employees’ motivation over time. Are your staff uncertain about their future; supervised too closely or not enough; buried in paperwork; or resentful about an uneven workload? Listen to them, then act. And keep boredom to a minimum: try something simple like giving everyone a turn at running the weekly meeting, or find out if your employees would enjoy a more dramatic change – like allowing pets in the office!
Your staff will lose motivation if they’re bored or unhappy at work. By showing them that you’re aware of, and dealing with, any basic sources of discomfort – like job insecurity or workload issues – you free them up to get out of their comfort zone. When your employees feel safe exploring new ideas, work is more interesting for them – so they’ll work harder and better for you.
#5 Motivating rewards
If you can’t afford to give cash bonuses, think innovatively when it comes to rewarding your employees – gift cards, an employee of the month scheme, even a personal card or thank-you from someone higher up in the company. Just make sure the recognition you give is clearly tied to a great piece of work and, if possible, acknowledge that work in front of other employees. Consistent recognition and reward in front of peers make your staff feels valued and keeps them focused on your organization’s goals.
Not every company can pay the highest salary or give out huge cash bonuses every month. But by remembering the five keys to employee motivation, any business can keep a high-performing staff that wants to work hard for them.