Five ways to improve employee motivation

employee motivation

Motivation is perhaps the one staple feature of every successful workforce. It’s what gets the best out of your employees, enables productivity, boosts morale and keeps your most skilled with you. But it’s also one of the hardest to maintain and requires ongoing effort. While no single approach to motivation works consistently, applying the following can help every company improve employee motivation and performance for the long-term.

Create a positive work environment

The state of your workplace really matters. Most people aren’t happy sitting in tiny cubicles under fluorescent lights, so consider ways to make the office more appealing – and actually consult people before you make changes. Here are a few pointers on how to create a positive office space (spoiler: it has a lot to do with grouping many spaces in one, and giving people autonomy to choose what they need when).

Fun additions to offices, like ping pong tables and bean bags, are now used by many top companies, but creating a playful work culture takes more than a few games consoles. “Work playground” does not equal “happy employees”. Think hard about company attitudes, processes, employee protections and benefits – and always strive for positive reinforcement.

And get plants – lots of plants. They are known for creating a calming effect, and can actually increase happiness and productivity.

Communicate effectively

Good communication sets managers apart. Don’t fall into an email culture; set aside time to talk to your employees face-to-face. Let them know you see them as a person: encourage them to share their thoughts and impressions, check in to see how they’re doing and ask how you can support them better. Being part of the same team means actually knowing and enabling each other.

Across the workplace, communicate honestly and often. Have an open door policy: staff should feel listened to, that they can voice doubts or concerns without judgment. If you need to give someone difficult feedback, try to turn it into a positive, so the employee doesn’t feel chided and sees it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Above all, listen: nothing makes an employee feel more valued – and thus more motivated – than knowing that they matter.

Recognize good performance

Rewarding the behaviors you want to see among your workforce reinforces your company’s goals and boosts engagement. Employees are proud to see how their individual efforts impact the organization, and this strengthens the notion that their contribution is valued.

If you feel you need to make a physical statement of appreciation, consider a recognition program, where employees can choose from a variety of rewards. Just bear in mind that rewarding good performance doesn’t just mean giving gifts (and reward programs necessarily make you pick one person’s efforts over another’s, which can be massively demotivating).

Praise can be just – if not more – motivating; a verbal or written “thank you” goes a long way. Public praise and recognition is also very valuable; seek your employee out in their workspace and thank them personally for their contribution. It acknowledges effort, builds allegiance and improves motivation.

Prioritize employee wellbeing

Happy, healthy employees are more motivated – an obvious point, yet one that’s often overlooked. Even when you’re in the middle of a big project, try to ensure your employees are getting enough sleep and taking time for themselves.

Few things are more detrimental to motivation than burnout. Make sure your employees are given time to relax and refuel, and when you’re spending long hours at work, ensure there’s plenty of water, food, healthy snacks and bonus perks.

The importance of regular breaks, cannot be overstated. A few minutes here and there can help team members unwind, keeping creativity – and motivation – burning. Make sure you set a healthy policy towards downtime, and consider running regular group social activities during office hours.

Lead with trust and respect

Employees want to have autonomy and independence at work. It feels good to be the master of your specialism, respected to plan and structure work according to how you work best. So the most important thing managers can do is actually trust their employees and never micromanage.

Allow your workers to self-manage their workloads; if you have a big project, let them pursue it how they feel comfortable. This allows your team members to work according to their own productive cycles, and know that you respect their abilities. Giving employees responsibility and ownership over their work helps them feel more valued and integral to your company – and helps cultivate an overarching framework for long-term motivation.