The Art of Motivating Your Employees: Proven Strategies for Success

The Art of Motivating Your Employees: Proven Strategies for Success

Dive into expert tips for inspiring your team, from innovative rewards to effective communication, and foster a culture of high performance and engagement.

The Art of Motivating Your Employees: Proven Strategies for Success

You know those mornings when you roll out of bed energized and ready to take on the day? You sit down at your desk, in the office or at home, and you fly through your to-do list with ease and even a sense of excitement. Those days feel incredible, and they’re not (entirely) powered by coffee — they’re driven by a deep sense of motivation.

Now imagine if all of your employees felt that sense of motivation most of the time: your organization could do truly amazing things.

You don’t need to wait around, hoping for that sense of inspiration to strike your company as a whole, fortunately. While there’s no magic wand to wave to send all your team members into a state of motivation right away, there are many data-backed ways to build a more motivating work environment in your organization.

10 Highly Effective Employee Motivation Strategies

1. Recognize Their Hard Work

Employee recognition is absolutely vital to employee motivation — there’s nothing more deflating than putting in months of hard work on a big project and receiving no thanks or recognition from a manager, a leader, or a peer.

Recognition programs help employees feel seen and valued for their efforts, and they deeply value recognition. In fact, while 22% of senior leaders don’t think recognition affects employee retention much, 70% of employees say that morale and motivation would improve massively with increased recognition and gratitude from managers.

And they’re easy to set up these days with plenty of easy-to-use options like automated performance awards and  Cooleaf’s employee engagement platform. Building a true culture of recognition is harder, but onboarding the right tech is the first step towards that end goal.

2. Have Small But Measurable Goals

Next on the list is ensuring you set small, but measurable, goals for employees and teams. Aiming for the stars is great sometimes, but if none of your goal-setting is focused on something employees can achieve reasonably soon, they’re going to miss that sense of accomplishment and start to feel frustrated. And that’s a super-effective way to drag down their sense of motivation.

Plus, you should focus on setting clear goals so employees know exactly what they’re aiming for. Vague goals like “improve the customer experience” don’t have a definitive endpoint or ways to measure success, while “raise our Net Promoter Score by 10%” is clear and measurable (and you can tie them to performance incentives for extra motivation).

3. Uncover Each Employee’s “Why”

Every employee has unique motivating factors for why they do the work they do, and also why they’re in that role at your company. Some may want stability and security, some are motivated by increasing challenges and growth, and some want a relaxed work-life balance above all.

None of these motivations are better or worse than others, but knowing the “why” behind each employee’s work can help your managers understand what will most effectively motivate each employee. For example, if an employee loves to travel and is highly motivated by getting time off to do so, her manager could motivate her by giving her extra PTO as a reward for going above and beyond on a big project.

4. Offer Training and Development Opportunities

One universally motivating element in any workplace is the opportunity for professional development. Having access to growth opportunities no matter where you are in your career is highly motivating (and it’s great for engagement too) — we all like to learn new skills, burnish our existing ones, and build a satisfying future career path.

Development opportunities are more than just promotions: they can mean cross-training employees on new and vital skills, offering rotations to expose them to new teams and roles, or prioritizing lateral moves so they can grow within the company without waiting for a promotion. And offering training and education stipends so employees can learn and grow further is a great idea too. It’s an investment in your employees they’ll appreciate.

5. Give Employees Time to Rest and Recover

While highly motivated employees can be remarkably productive and hard-working, they also need regular breaks and rest to keep up those productivity levels. Working at top capacity for long periods of time without space to rest and recover will wear down, and eventually burn out, even the most motivated employees.

Giving all of your workers plenty of paid time off is a good start — but you also have to ensure they can actually use all of it, and that they can truly disconnect when they’re off. A company culture where everyone can take at least one real vacation every year without thinking about work or being on-call will go a long way toward increasing motivation levels. Just think of how ready you feel to tackle your work after a really restorative vacation — that’s the feeling you want all your employees to have regularly.

6. Encourage Collaboration and Teamwork

Working with great people who you can trust and count on is a surprisingly big factor in motivation levels. A sense of community and collaboration helps employees feel support at work, plus they’re more likely to go above and beyond when they’re working with, or for, someone they care about personally.

And connection is a great retention booster as well. 54% of employees say that a strong sense of community (meaning a connection with their colleagues and working together towards a common vision) has kept them in their job longer than they otherwise would have stayed. You can build this kind of positive work environment with purposeful team-building activities, cross-functional projects, and plenty of peer-to-peer recognition

7. Offer Plenty of Autonomy

Micromanaging is a really effective way to de-motivate your employees, especially your top performers. You’ve gone to the trouble of hiring top-notch professionals, so let them have decision-making and problem-solving power wherever possible. In fact, autonomy is one of the three pillars of motivation, according to self-determination theory.  

This autonomy would ideally extend to flexible scheduling and remote work as well — demands to be in the office five days per week in jobs where it’s not needed aren’t motivating workers to do much other than look for new jobs right now.

8. Appreciate and Celebrate Who They Are

When employees feel they have to hide parts of themselves when they enter the workplace, that’s not only a poor employee experience — it has a negative impact on how employees perform. In fact, the second pillar of motivation in self-determination theory is inclusion and belonging, so if you’re ignoring this element, your employees won’t be optimally motivated to perform.

Giving employees the chance to bring their whole selves to work is the foundation of DEIB: diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also good for your employees’ wellbeing and motivation.

9. Create an Environment That Supports Wellbeing

Speaking of employee wellbeing, supporting it is a great way to support and boost motivation levels too! It’s hard to feel motivated to go the extra mile if you don’t feel at your best physically or mentally.

To ensure your motivation strategies are truly effective, it's essential to prioritize employee wellbeing. Elevate your approach with Cooleaf's Employee Wellbeing Checklist, a comprehensive guide to nurturing a motivated and thriving workforce.

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Wellbeing support can look like stipends for gym membership, in-office or online yoga and meditation classes, and EAP programs. It can even mean small perks like healthy snacks in the breakroom and good coffee in the cafeteria to fuel those creative sessions. If you’re not sure what employees need to feel at their best for work, don’t be afraid to ask them in an employee survey.

10. Connect Their Work to a Larger Vision

Some days, the small tasks just pile up and start to feel like busywork. It’s detrimental to motivation to feel like your work is meaningless and purposeless. That’s why connecting the work that each employee does to a larger sense of purpose, like helping customers live better lives, is a boon to employee performance and job satisfaction.

This is a harder task at for-profit companies than in non-profits, of course, which have an explicit mission to do good. But even simply tying an employee’s role clearly to your company’s success is beneficial, as it gives their work meaning and helps them feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves.

Building a Successful Employee Motivation Strategy

Effectively motivating your employees is about more than just offering them monetary incentives like a high salary or an annual bonus. It’s about regularly offering them recognition and appreciation, giving them a clear and empowering vision for their future, and engaging them in the success of their team and the company as a whole.

And since motivation looks a little different for every employee, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution: you simply have to implement a range of ideas and see what works. Or ask employees directly what’s getting in the way of their motivation levels — you might find some surprising and inspiring answers in there.

Having the right employee engagement software can significantly boost your employee experience and motivation levels at your company, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Cooleaf can help your HR team create a more engaging employee experience for everyone!

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