Employees participating in meeting
What makes your employees tick? — Getty Images

Your employees are the driving force of your organization. So, if you want to build a successful company, you’re going to have to find a way to motivate your employees.

Employees that feel valued at work will be more productive, engaged, and will continuously look for ways to improve. They’ll get along better with other people and create a positive workplace culture.

A recent study highlighted in the Harvard Business Review found that disengaged employees had a 37% higher absentee rate and made 60% more errors. Companies with low employee engagement scores had:

  • 18% lower productivity
  • 16% lower profitability
  • 37% lower job growth
  • 65% lower share price

In contrast, the same study found that companies with high levels of employee engagement received 100% more job applications. Clearly, the importance of having happy, engaged employees can’t be overstated.

Understanding motivation

All employees need some level of motivation to perform well and feel good about their job. This can be tricky because everyone is motivated by different things.

Some employees have a lot of natural internal motivation while others need external factors, like recognition or rewards. In the early 1960s, psychologists Roger Reid and David Merrill wanted to find out whether they could predict leadership, managerial style, and sales performance. To do this, they identified four social styles that motivate most people, that have since been helping leaders recognize the behaviors of their employees:

  • Analytical. This type of employee is thinking-oriented. They usually have a high level of control and assert themselves by asking rather than telling. They’re accurate, disciplined, and unemotional at work. This person usually has a strong need to be right, which means they’re usually very deliberate and data-driven. However, they are often unwilling to state their position until they know they’re right.
  • Driving. This type of employee is action-oriented. They prefer to tell rather than ask and often show little regard for the feelings of others. They are fast-paced, make decisions quickly, and like to exert control. They are efficient and results driven but can have a hard time listening and cooperating with other people.
  • Amiable. This type of employee is relationship-oriented. They value relationships above all else and rarely assert themselves over other people. They focus on building and maintaining relationships, which makes them supportive and dependable employees. But they often struggle to initiate change or take action.
  • Expressive. This type of employee is intuition-oriented. They make decisions based on their gut and tend to reject routines. They’re usually assertive but they use their feelings to meet their objectives. They are spontaneous and crave recognition and praise. At their best, this person is charismatic and enthusiastic; but at their worst, they can be manipulative and impulsive.

Employees that feel valued at work will be more productive, engaged, and will continuously look for ways to improve.

9 ways to motivate your employees

Once you have a better understanding of your employees and their behaviors, there are several ways to motivate them. Luckily, motivating your employees doesn’t have to break the bank. It could be something as simple as taking a moment to say “hello” or acknowledging a job well done. Let’s look at nine ways you can begin to motivate your employees today.

  1. Communication. Communicating openly with your employees is one of the best ways to motivate them and improve your workplace culture. You may believe that you already do a pretty good job of communicating with your employees. But the real question is, do they believe that? If not, then your best efforts aren’t getting you very far. Open communication is so important because it gives employees a sense of responsibility and camaraderie—both of which are key motivators. Here are a few ways you can begin prioritizing communication at work:
  2. Schedule regular meetings. Weekly meetings can do wonders for workplace morale and motivating your employees. This kind of regular communication will help build rapport and encourage productivity. However, make sure that the meetings are scheduled in advance and that everyone knows what the agenda is so they stay on topic.
  3. Show an interest in their concerns. When an employee expresses frustration over something that’s going on at work, show that you take their concerns seriously. Ask them for more information or what you can do to fix it. Employees want to be heard but they also want to feel like you take their concerns seriously. However, always keep your interactions with your employees positive. Feel free to empathize but always offer positive solutions for how to make things better.
  4. Get to know your employees. You don’t have to hang out after work but it is important that you get to know your employees. Even things like celebrating birthdays every month can have a big impact on employee morale. When you get to know your employees, you learn how to draw out their talent and motivate them to go beyond what’s expected of them.
  5. Recognition. Recognition is a key driver for motivating many employees in the workplace. According to Globoforce, 78% of employees would work harder for more recognition. When employees are recognized for a job well done, they’re more invested in your company and motivated to work harder. But implementing a recognition strategy can be tricky. The workplace continues to skew younger and millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce. Millennials have very specific ideas about what they are looking for in the workplace. They are looking for genuine recognition for their work. As you begin looking for ways to recognize employees, look for both big and small wins. If you’re only focused on rewarding the big wins, then employee recognition may be few and far between. Big projects take a long time and usually involve a lot of frustration and setbacks, so it’s important to recognize small wins along the way. This will motivate employees to keep pushing through even in the face of resistance. Recognize employees who are team players and work well together. Encouraging employees to work together will create a better workplace culture and likely increase your organization’s profitability.
  6. Create incentives. Incentives are designed to motivate employees to be more productive. You can choose to offer perks such as a bonus or a higher salary. However, if bonuses and higher salaries are not in the cards for your organization right now, there are other options. Non-monetary incentives can be very motivating for some employees as well. These may include things like a nicer office, a better parking spot, or even just periodically taking your employees to lunch. However, if you use rewards or incentives, make sure that all of your employees understand what they have to do to earn them.
  7. Autonomy. The quickest way to snuff out any workplace motivation is by micromanaging your employees. Why would anyone be motivated to take initiative if they know you’re going to be telling them they’re doing it wrong five minutes later? Your goal should be to create leaders and problem-solvers, so give your employees a say in how they do their job. Give them the authority to make their own decisions and responsibility for how they will carry out their tasks.
  8. Flexible schedules. Technology has radically changed the way businesses operate and it’s no longer necessary for everyone to be physically present for work to get done. This has led many employees to long for a more flexible work schedule. One study found that 46% of job seekers prioritize a flexible schedule above all else. Of course, this will depend on the work being done and the needs of your organization, but if you want to motivate your employees and attract top talent in the future, consider offering flexible schedules to your employees. If executed correctly, this could be a huge win for your business.
  9. Opportunities for growth. Employees will be motivated to perform at their best when they recognize opportunities for growth. Of course, it goes without saying that all employees are interested in financial growth. But many employees are also interested in professional and career growth. Talented, motivated employees will want to advance within your organization. Many people long for more responsibility and ways to earn the respect of others within the company. You can also offer them opportunities to improve their skills and advance their knowledge. When your employees feel like they are learning new skills and improving, this progress can be a powerful motivator.

Finding ways to motivate your employees isn’t easy but it’s necessary if you want to build a successful company. There’s no doubt that workplace motivation has a direct effect on productivity. Motivated employees perform at a higher level, follow through on their responsibilities, and create a more positive environment.

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