70 Simple Ways to Motivate Employees


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When it comes to growing your business, you can use all the fancy tools and systems you want, but if you’re employees aren’t motivated to do great work, you’re not going to get very far.

There are a number of reasons why your employees might lack the motivation they need in order to do their best work each day—they could be feeling unappreciated, bored with their responsibilities, or unhappy with the benefits and flexibility offered to them.

If you’re looking to boost motivation among your team members this quarter, try these 70 simple ideas:

1. Gamify, with incentives.

Make a game out of work, and provide rewards when goals and achievements are met.

2. Be positive.

How the boss leads, the rest will follow. If you’re a grump, they will be, too. Set the tone for the workplace by being positive.

3. Demonstrate trust.

Micromanaging is not trust. Constantly correcting or re-doing work is not trust. If you give an employee a task and they do it differently than you would have, trust them enough to let it stand.

Show trust whenever it is possible.

4. Recognize accomplishments regularly.

Recognition for accomplishments shouldn’t be rare. They should be regularly done. These moments lift up team members and give the others a break from their day.

5. Give them a chance to lead.

Really lead, not you telling them they are in charge and then coming in and micromanaging everything they’ve done into the ground.

6. Gather feedback for reward.

Encourage “spontaneous” feedback by providing an incentive. Maybe you send out an email survey to your team, and offer to give those who respond permission to leave two hours early.

7. Give them a purpose.

Employees need to know what they do matters. Are they just tightening widgets, or are they building battleships? Make sure they know what the purpose of their work is, and make it a noble one.

8. Support their new ideas.

You’re not the only one with ideas. Encourage, support, and sometimes even implement the new ideas they have.

9. Give them stock.

Make the health of your business matter to them by giving them stock through an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP).

10. Insist on work-life balance.

Insist on work-life balance. Insist they take breaks. Insist they take vacation time. Refuse to allow them to login on their home computer after hours. Shut down email servers on Friday so no weekend email goes out. Whatever it takes.

Workaholics may not like it at first, but you’re doing everyone a favor in the long run.

11. Let them see the end game.

Not only do they need to know their purpose, but they need to know what everyone is working towards. Help them see, as much as possible, that the idea of team unity is necessary for that end game. Keep them posted on how it’s going.

12. Give them a chance to rest.

Can you institute a napping time? If you can, you’d be surprised at how many takers you’ll have for it.

13. Be transparent and honest.

In all things, be honest. They can’t trust you otherwise, and it’s hard to work in fear and distrust.

14. Set goals of all sizes.

Have big goals, project goals, department goals, personal goals–whatever it takes. But make sure you have smaller goals that are attainable, otherwise they’ll feel failure and disillusion at never reaching goals.

15. Give each person power.

No one wants to feel powerless. Give them power either by involving them in decisions that affect them, or by letting them try on leadership roles periodically.

16. Focus on individuals, not just teams.

Your employees are people, not faceless teams. Communicate and think of them as such.

17. Have an open door.

Remove any barrier that might keep them from talking to you, whether it’s limited office hours, a fussy personal assistant, or lack of availability.

18. Have a morale officer.

If you’re too busy to be bothered with employee morale, put someone else in charge of it. Make morale a priority. Encourage fun events and revamped procedures so the workplace isn’t drudgery. Make morale so purposeful there’s someone doing it as part of their job.

19. Keep your promises.

Employees can’t trust someone who doesn’t keep promises. And they resent it, especially, if they were promised financial or career rewards. Broken promises demotivate immediately.

20. Let them be unique individuals.

This is about respecting personalities. For example, your ideal open workplace may be torture for an introvert. Respect their individual nature as much as you can and accept that your ideals may not be theirs.

21. Listen to them.

Look them in the eye, know and use their name, ask questions, and respond appropriately. Take to heart what they say. Take action on what they say.

22. Provide free and helpful services.

Bring in a personal trainer, an accountant at tax time, or a chair massage professional. Find a service that your employees would love to have access to once in awhile, and offer it to them for free there at work.

23. Start workplace traditions.

Give them something to look forward to, something that is unique to their place of work. Holidays are a tradition for everyone. Make traditions in the office that they can call their own.

24. Send hand-written thank you notes.

Writing a real note on real paper and sending it to an employee means much more than just another email. It means you took the time.

25. Make sure everyone gets a mentor.

Maybe not everyone wants a mentor, but make them available to those who do.

26. Use reward points for useful things.

Set up a point system for your reward program that employees can use for useful and tangible things, such as cash gift cards, appliances, travel, etc.

27. Avoid boredom.

You might take comfort in routine, but it may feel like a boring rut to your employees.

Be purposeful about spicing things up, changing things around. Move the office furniture, bring in different caterers, paint the walls a different color, change the weekly schedule. Just avoid mind-numbing sameness.

28. Provide healthy food.

Birthday cake is fine once in awhile, but make fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, and other healthy foods available. Stock your vending machine with healthy options.

29. Pay them well.

Pay them the most you can. Never shortchange. Pay them what they’re worth, and then some if possible.

30. Don’t fear change.

Change can be good or bad, but don’t fear it. If you fear it, you’ll be pitted against your employees who are motivated to try new things. Embrace it and see where it leads.

31. Help employees reward each other.

Create a system where employees can let you know of the good work or attitudes of their coworkers. Let them feel the pleasure of knowing they helped another get a reward.

32. Celebrate personal milestones.

Remember birthdays, hiring anniversaries, and any other achievements they’ve accomplished outside of the workplace.

33. Send them to leadership training.

Give them a taste for the leadership world. Even if they are not in a management position, consider it training for the day when they might be.

34. Allow flexibility as much as possible.

Be flexible about where they work, how they work, and when they work.

35. Let them bring pets to work.

If possible, let them bring pets. This is not appropriate for all businesses (e.g. restaurants), but if it is, make it so.

36. Communicate clearly what you expect.

Don’t be afraid of confrontation. Don’t be concerned about making everyone happy. You must communicate your expectations clearly. This helps them feel secure in their job in the long run.

37. Help them continue learning.

Offer to pay part of tuition, or send them to classes and training. Offer free accounts for online courses. Build their confidence by helping them learn more.

38. Set an example.

Be the kind of leader they want to follow. Walk the talk. Work harder than they do. Make it clear to them, by what you do, that you don’t ask anything of them that you don’t ask of yourself.

39. Be purposeful about encouraging creativity.

You can say you love creativity, but do you do it? Insist on practicing it through creative outings, exercises, group events, and even designated creative areas where they can express themselves with games, writing, art, etc.

40. Love laughter.

If your team is laughing, that’s a good thing. Don’t reign it in.

41. Make unity a serious goal.

Are all your goals about productivity or finances? Don’t forget to include unity. A team that is unified ultimately produces more and builds your business. Have a plan for measuring and keeping unity front and center.

42. Make rewards achievable.

If your incentive and reward system takes impossible work to achieve, it isn’t really a reward system. Make it easy to begin reaping benefits of small rewards so they know it is possible and they continue on to the larger rewards.

43. Stay on the cutting edge.

Junky equipment? Outdated computers?

Nope. Keep the tools your employees use as close to the cutting edge as you can. Using the best tools is exciting and instills pride in employees.

44. Offer promotions and bonuses.

Employees should benefit financially, and in their career, for great work, loyalty, and continued success.

Not every position has an opportunity for advancement. This is discouraging for employees. Find a way to create advancement through tiered pay levels, additional responsibilities with corresponding title and salary adjustments, and so on, even if it isn’t truly moving up the ladder. There must be a sense of forward career movement.

45. Discipline and correct privately.

Never, never, never shame an employee in front of others. If there’s a problem, deal with it in private. Never yell, take down, or criticize an employee while others are looking on.

46. Praise in public.

Conversely, make praise and recognition a public thing.

47. Reward safety.

Give rewards to those who practice safety in the workplace. Make safety valuable.

48. Stand by your team.

The customer may always be right, and your boss may be trolling for blood, but you are to protect your team. They need to know you believe in them, trust them, and will protect them from anything ugly and undeserved.

49. Avoid nepotism.

Nothing destroys motivation like knowing you won’t get promoted because you’re not a relative or you haven’t been there as long as other employees. Promotion and reward should be based on hard work, qualifications, and excellence. Anything else is demotivating.

50. Use what works, not what’s popular.

The latest management fad isn’t the right one. Use what works with your employees, not the techniques someone far removed from your business tells you is the hot, new trend.

51. Ask employees what they want.

Not sure what they want? Try asking them. Everyone loves to share their opinion.

52. Get everyone to participate.

Not everyone participates in events and meetings the same way. Personalities and courage vary. Find a way that makes everyone comfortable to participate. Don’t cater to the loud and bold only.

53. Be fair. Be neutral.

Skip the emotional response. Avoid favoritism. Don’t make conflicts or challenges worse by lifting one up and putting another down.

54. Use team building activities.

Since unity is your goal, regularly hold team building activities. Make sure they’re fun, and seem like a reward in and of itself.

55. Work beside your employees.

Are you always in your fancy front office? Get down in the trenches and do the same work alongside your employees sometimes. Understand what they experience.

56. Create rewards that are unique.

Maybe you don’t have a pile of money to hand out as an incentive. Find other ways to reward employees that are unusual and inexpensive.

57. Reward groups that have done well.

Focus on the individual is vital, but you also want to motivate teams and groups. Reward them for a job well done using group incentives.

58. Make feedback safe.

Make it easy for employees to leave feedback. It shouldn’t always be in a face-to-face employee review meeting. Use the old fashioned suggestion box if you must.

59. Bring in teachers.

Bring instructors and experts into the workplace. Provide free and valuable training right where they work.

60. Reward healthy living.

Healthy workers aren’t tired, worn out, and taking sick days. Have a system that rewards healthy choices, such as biking or walking to work, or using a 15-minute break for a quick walk. Give your employees a FitBit and hold a competition for who walks the most steps each month.

61. Do not patronize.

Insincerity isn’t motivating. It’s insulting. Make sure your praise is genuine and free from any form of manipulation.

62. Guard the workplace culture carefully.

Don’t assume your great workplace culture will naturally flourish. Take its temperature regularly and find any bruises.

63. Learn what de-motivates.

Some people are motivated by rewards, others by praise, and still others by a job well done. Blanket motivation techniques don’t work, and may do harm in some cases. Tailor your efforts for each person.

64. Give them an allowance.

Whether it’s an allowance for books, decorating the office, or sprucing up their cubicle, give employees a set amount each year.

65. Give them professional development training.

Send them to training that teaches them not only about job-specific topics, but also on things such as procrastination, being debt free, time management, and so on. Help them be successful people, on and off the job.

66. Don’t spring things on them.

You might like surprises, but your employees don’t, particularly if it affects their job. If big changes are coming, let them know what way the wind is blowing early on. Announcing a huge change one morning, out of the blue, is upsetting.

67. Get rid of systems that fail.

Your loyalty is to your employees, not your system or procedures. If it isn’t working, show them you’ll scrap it for their sake. Being locked in a bad system is demoralizing and makes them powerless.

68. Let them solve a problem.

Got a problem? Give it to them to solve. Show them you trust and respect them enough to do it.

69. Create a buffer board.

Let your employees select a few members to create a committee that will serve to hear employee concerns and report them to management. Not every employee is comfortable talking to the boss directly.

70. Use cross training.

Train employees for other job positions, if they want to. Help them become invaluable by being able to serve in multiple positions and possibly have future advancement.

70 Simple Ways to Motivate Employees