Did you know that money is not the top motivating factor for employees? And that employees happy at work are 87% less likely to leave?
The above statements show that you don’t need a huge budget to increase employee retention. With creativity, you can increase employee motivation quickly and efficiently. If you need inspiration, this article is for you! Let’s look at how to motivate employees in 25 effective ways.
1. Create a Beautiful Workplace
In the post-pandemic era, many employees are working remotely. If you still have a physical location, the decoration and atmosphere in the office can do a lot to motivate employees.
Some popular themes are nature-inspired (like Google) or minimalistic design that helps increase focus by reducing clutter.
If you don’t have an office, you can still encourage employees to have an aesthetically pleasing, tidy, and stimulating work environment. Share tips and articles on how to prepare their home office. If the finances allow, allocate a small budget to each employee for home office decoration.
2. Work outdoors
Did you know that working outside can boost creative problem-solving skills by 60%?
When the weather allows, invite your employees to the garden or a nearby park. Consider having a picnic for lunch. Since spending time outside increases your cognitive skills, you can host a brainstorming session in the fresh air.
Sitting outside on the patio or the balcony can be a great alternative for employees working from home.
If you are in the middle of a concrete jungle and the weather doesn’t allow being outside, bring nature inside by getting some plants.
3. Allow for a flexible schedule
78% of workers find that flexible work arrangements make them more productive. And as many as 77% said it would be a major consideration when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer in the future!
We’re all different – some people are early birds and prefer to get everything done by 2pm. Night owls thrive when allowed to sleep in and use the evening hours for work. When you allow everyone to work according to their natural rhythm, you maximize efficiency, benefiting both your employees and the company.
On that same note, offering surprise time off is a great way to motivate your employees. Occasionally let everyone finish early – for example, on a sunny summer afternoon, when a major sports game is aired, or after having accomplished a business milestone.
4. Have more fun
It’s easy to keep the motivation high when your team just aced an important stakeholder presentation or hit a new milestone. That said, some days will be mundane. Some tasks will be more “meh” than motivating. How managers motivate employees through those times can decide whether someone chooses to stay or looks elsewhere.
Having fun doesn’t need to come with a price tag or take a lot of time. Play with gifs and games to invite smiles or crack a joke at the beginning of a meeting – just make sure it’s inclusive and respectful.
If you’re at the office, play a round of video games or table soccer. Invite a spontaneous coffee break and bring cookies or ice cream for everyone. When you play hard, it’s easier to work hard!
5. Play with gamification
Take the games from table soccer to solving work tasks through gamification! Turning learning opportunities or problem-solving into a game increases employee motivation drastically: 89% of employees felt more productive and 88% happier at work when using gamification.
Spinning off the previous point, gamification adds fun to your workdays! You can also turn ice-breakers into games.
6. Encourage socializing
By now, we understand that employees that feel happy and are motivated do a better job. The social aspect of a job is a huge factor in employee motivation. It is even more important to encourage socializing in remote teams when it doesn’t occur organically in the same way as for an on-site job.
Besides, ice-breakers and introducing new hires invite employees living close to each other to go for a glass of wine (or a mocktail) or attend a cultural event together. You can also suggest remote employees meet at a coworking space or coffee shop.
7. Introduce and welcome new employees
You only have one chance to make a first impression on new hires. Like a first date, you want that to be a good one!
Properly introducing, onboarding, and welcoming new employees is critical for their motivation. If new hires feel forgotten on their first day and like no one is excited to have them on the team, they’ll probably not feel motivated and inspired to do a great job. They may also feel excluded socially – and as we have seen, feeling part of the team is a key to employee motivation.
8. Sing “happy birthday!”
Or at least say it – a simple “happy birthday!” goes a long way. Sending a birthday card or collecting money for a gift increases loyalty and motivates your employees. You can also organize a group call for the team where everyone extends their birthday wishes.
And don’t worry about having perfect memory – add reminders in your calendar a couple of days in advance.
9. Celebrate achievements
On the topic of celebration – don’t get so stuck chasing the next big goal that you forget how far you’ve come.
One way to motivate employees is to make a habit out of celebrating achievements. Did you reach a milestone? Hit and exceeded a sales goal? Nailed an important investor presentation? Let your team know how proud you are and how the team's efforts made this possible!
10. Give positive feedback
Spotting where there’s room for improvement is an essential skill as a manager. However, how managers motivate employees is by acknowledging what’s working well. Recognize bigger and smaller initiatives and ideas and give credit where credit is due – and you’re fostering a team of motivated employees ready to take on any challenge!
It is up to you to cultivate a culture of collaboration over competition. An atmosphere where abundance prevails and people aren’t afraid of lifting colleagues is fertile ground for motivation.
11. Reward excellence
We can tend to associate rewards with financial compensation and promotions. To motivate employees, reward smaller achievements with non-monetary gifts like a restaurant gift voucher or tickets to cultural/sports events.
Vouchers are a great option since everyone can choose something aligned with their preferences. In contrast, the traditional bottle of wine is not optimal for someone who’s not drinking for whatever reason.
12. Put constructive criticism in a “compliment sandwich”
Providing negative feedback is one of the hardest parts of being a manager. Wrongly delivered, it may discourage employees and reduce motivation.
A hack to make it easier is remembering that the first and last impressions stick. If you need to deliver constructive feedback, start with something positive, give the input, and end on a positive note.
Also, the way you phrase the criticism makes the whole difference – use “I”-statements rather than “you.” “You did this” sounds accusative, while, “I noticed this hasn’t been done – let’s look at how we can avoid missing it moving forward” is milder. Yet it requires the person to take responsibility.
13. Ask what they want
Sometimes, we don’t see the forest for all trees. The easiest way of knowing how to motivate your employees as a manager is simply… to ask. What would they want to feel inspired to do a better job? Where do they want you to listen more?
When your employees feel like their opinion matters and that you act on it, you create an atmosphere that motivates them to be more productive.
14. Paint the big picture for purpose
Your role as a manager/team leader is to help your people see how what they do contributes to reaching business goals. Depending on their role, employees can sometimes struggle to see how their daily efforts make a difference for the company. Employees become more motivated when they sense that what they do is vital beyond paying their rent.
15. Give growth opportunities
The opportunity for career advancement is a major motivating factor for most people. Not everyone may be interested in climbing the traditional corporate ladder to become team leaders or managers. Some may prefer to become subject-matter experts – others are happy where they are.
Your job is to meet everyone where they’re at. Even the person who doesn’t seem interested in evolving can get challenged with some new tasks or maybe mentoring a recruit. For those who want to reach the stars, there should be a clear path toward the next level.
16. Involve your people in goal-setting
Only 40% of surveyed employees understood business goals and strategies. And employees who feel disconnected from business goals are less motivated. Boost motivation by involving your employees in goal-setting – if only by explaining the reasoning behind the goals they are working so hard to reach.
17. Set clear expectations
Increasing motivation is a two-way street: your employees need to feel heard, but you also need to define what’s expected of them in return. Lack of clear expectations creates confusion, leading to frustration and a drop in motivation.
Prevent this by communicating expectations at the beginning of a project and continuously checking in.
18. Review your routines around performance reviews
A performance review aims to help employees perform better and get more engaged. Unfortunately, this is not how reality looks. Only 14% of employees think that the performance review helps them get more motivated.
Once again, communication is key. Ask your employees for feedback – maybe they would prefer a 360-degree review (where everyone gives feedback to each other) rather than an evaluation from the manager? Or more frequent check-ins to see how they’re pacing? A one-on-one meeting can be a good place to ask for such feedback.
19. Communicate clearly
As we have seen, communication is one of the most critical ways managers can motivate employees. Communicate clearly by:
Using text and audio/video when applicable, since everyone digests information differently
Leaving room for questions
Verifying that everyone has understood
Explaining industry jargon not everyone may be familiar with
Including everyone in email threads about project advancements so that no one feels left out
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback about how you can become a better communicator.
20. Be transparent
No one enjoys the feeling of things happening behind their back. Be as transparent as possible through the good news and less good ones. Your employees will feel more motivated if they can trust you to keep them posted rather than masking and trying to make things look good.
21. Lead by example
People don’t do what you say – they do what you do. Leading by example may be one of the best ways of motivating employees.
How would you want your team to react when facing adversities? How would you want them to communicate and solve problems? If you stay motivated and positive through challenges, chances are it will rub off on your employees without you needing to lift a finger.
22. Avoid micromanaging
When we trust people, they tend to deliver. Conversely, micromanaging and requesting detailed reports can give the impression that you don’t trust your team to do a good job.
If you trust someone and they don’t get the expected results, see point 12 above on how to give constructive feedback.
23. Take regular breaks
Remembering to take breaks can be harder when working remotely. Invite everyone to pause for at least 5 minutes every hour to get some fresh air, stretch their bodies, and recharge. You’ll see motivation rise – hand in hand with productivity!
Similarly, insist on work-life balance by refusing to let employees log in after hours. Healthy and well-rested employees will do a better job.
24. Keep your peeps fueled
Ever been so soaked up in a work task that you forgot to eat? Remind your employees to stay well fed and hydrated to keep motivation on top. Some companies even offer free snacks. If yours doesn’t, consider occasionally bringing snacks and food to the office or sending lunch coupons and restaurant vouchers to remote workers.
25. Be a respectful, honest, and supportive manager
Last but not least:
Be responsive and present with your team.
Show them that you care.
Be honest and supportive – and you’ll get a motivated and productive team, resulting in higher revenue.
Many factors go into employee motivation. If it feels intimidating – fret not! There are some behaviors you can monitor to estimate employee motivation at work:
Sudden changes in the number of days worked from home
This applies if you have a policy where employees can choose how to distribute their work hours between home and the office. If someone used to come to the office regularly and suddenly doesn’t come at all, it may indicate a lack of motivation, issues with a colleague, or they are about to burn out – all things to take seriously.
Carelessness and repeated mistakes
A lack of motivation can lead to employees not fulfilling their tasks or making mistakes. Depending on the type of job, this can be time-consuming or directly dangerous.
Engagement in meetings and social activities
If someone lacks motivation, they may never attend voluntary social activities and avoid actively participating in meetings.
Lack of interest in taking responsibility and learning new things
Employees with low motivation often do as little as needed. They are not interested in growing in their role and taking on more responsibility. They may even seem indifferent toward learning new role-related skills.
Keeping your employees motivated in today’s business landscape, where many work remotely, presents different challenges than if everyone were at the office. But the principles are the same:
At the end of the day, how to motivate your employees is by equal parts head and heart.
Head as in engaging employees in goal-setting, review processes, and giving them clear career paths. Delivering constructive feedback with grace also falls into this category.
Heart stands for the human aspects – making your employees feel recognized, rewarding excellence, encouraging fun and regular breaks, and emphasizing the social aspects.
When you master both parts, you foster intrinsic employee motivation – your people genuinely enjoy what they do and motivate each other within the team.
Ranee has worked in the SaaS industry for nearly ten years. She loves working with, learning from, and helping develop effective leaders and is willing to share her thoughts through words. Outside of work, you can find her dancing, hiking in the mountains, or reading in a cafe.